This time was no different on this late July day. We rode through the country and my dad knew who lived or used to live in all the old farmsteads. The corn and beans looked good even though it had been hot and dry. The road was dusty, and I thought to myself I’ll need to run the car through the car wash when I get back.
When we got to the farm, his farm, we looked things over. He commented on how clean the beans looked and how straight the rows were. I sat up a little higher in my seat filled with pride and glad that he approved. He always approved, I never knew him to say that it didn’t live up to his standards.
Dad had walked those fields many times in his life. He walked a lot of beans and pulled a lot of weeds. We used to cultivate and pull weeds at the same time. We would take turns driving the tractor as it cultivated. The other would stand on the draw bar and jump off when there was a weed to pull. Those were long days and we were tired after doing that for a good part of the day. However, I never dreaded that, and I always enjoyed being with Dad. I think he enjoyed being with me too, at least he always made me feel that way.
I looked at Dad’s 95-year-old hands that were now thick and swollen with fluid. His right hand was missing two fingers as a result of a farming accident many years ago. I remember coming home from grade school in the early 70’s and dad was lying on the couch with his hand all wrapped up. Mom whispered he lost two fingers today in the corn picker. I stood in disbelief, wondered how he could stand that and how he would ever keep on farming. Farming was his passion, he loved working on the farm, milking cows, planting and harvesting each season, baling hay, feeding the cattle, hauling manure.
We rode on the yard and looked at the buildings that didn’t look quite the same as they did when I was a kid. The corn cribs were empty, the cattle yards no longer had fences, the cattle shed and chicken coop were torn down. The barn was starting to look like it was leaning, and the paint was pealing.
Memories of the dusty hay mow, milking cows, carrying milk to the bulk tank, feeding calves all raced through my mind. I wonder what went through his mind. He bought this farm 59 years ago. I was a baby at the time. The house wasn’t much. The place needed a lot of work. Slowly and surely over the years Dad and Mom put a lot of sweat and hard work into making the place a beautiful place. I still call it home. There was a lot of acceptance and love there -- a great place to grow up. We had many laughs, we shed a few tears now and then, but I have great memories there. I think Dad did too.
We drove back to Sioux Center and as we drove away, I wondered how many more times we’d be able to come there together. Dad’s health was failing. Over the past few months he’d fallen often, and we had to move him from assisted living to the nursing home because he needed more care. That was a hard move for him. We got back to the nursing home and he thanked me again for taking him out there. He told me how much he appreciated that. He always did.
A few weeks later, Val called me at work one morning to tell me that Dad wasn’t waking up and that I should come to the nursing home as soon as possible. Before I was able to get there, he breathed his last and passed on. He was ready to go and longed to see Mom again. When I got to his room he was lying in bed and looked like he was sleeping peacefully. I breathed a sigh of relief through the tears and knew then that I could let him go and that God had granted his and our desire that he pass peacefully.
My thoughts flashed back to the last ride to the farm. I didn’t know that was his last ride. I have a feeling he did. Thanks Dad for taking me on the ride of life. I appreciate it. I will cherish that memory forever and strive to live the legacy that you left me.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for Christian parents, for their lives and their legacy. Amen.