Saying goodbye is never easy, whether it is a person, place or thing. This week, it was a place that I said goodbye to; the forty acre farm we owned for over sixty years (since 1952) located in Elsie, Michigan. Across the forty acres included our three-bedroom, one bathroom farm house that held all eight of us. We also had a barn, garage and a chicken coop. At one time we raised chickens, pigs, cows, rabbits, cats, dogs and even a pet raccoon. Our chickens were the original free-range, long before it was chic to eat organic. Free-range back then meant dodging chicken poop in the back yard, along with the fun of being chased by a couple of overly aggressive roosters. The chicken coop was a place for their safety and comfort, not solitary confinement as we often see today.
We had acres of garden to plant, weed and harvest. Dad didn’t need to use many pesticides, because part of our job in the summers was to pick the potato bugs and tomato worms off the plants. Dad worked all day at General Motors and evenings and weekends in the field. My siblings and I spent many nights taking dinner to my dad in the field as there was more work than hours in a day.
On each of my previous visits home, I realized I took for granted walking in the orchard, the garden, or in the garage “office” that was my dad’s getaway. This time, I wasn’t taking anything for granted.
Dad was called home to heaven about eight years ago and mom down-sized to an independent living apartment at almost 90 years young. The farm was missing it’s original owners, so it was a desolate place.
It was now time to, literally, pick up the remains to sell or discard. The process has taken months, and this wasn’t our first time sorting through the volumes of memorabilia. I cherished every moment and memory that flashed into my mind. Every last item had to find a new home, from the shaker cup my brother and I made chocolate pudding in, to the homemade notepad/pencil holder that my dad used in his office. He was a big fan of radio and would listen to either Paul Harvey or a polka music station. Ironically, my mom ended up as a disc jockey at a local polka station but decided to retire at 89 years young.
We packed sixty years of living in bags and boxes that would go into a garage sale, auction or to charity. My brother and I walked through the orchard, and we picked apples off one of the many trees. He shared which variety was his favorite and that he was sad that the pears were gone for the season. However, we managed to find a few and cherished every bite. He pointed out that one of the apple trees that hadn’t produced in years suddenly was full of apples. I told him God had blessed us one last time with the fruit from the tree.
He told me that the new owners would most likely cut the fruit trees down to farm, which was a bit painful to imagine. God then brought to my heart the Bible verse from Eziekel 47:12, which states, “Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” It was one of my favorites, being a Naturopath although, at this moment, I felt more loss and pain than healing.
Since most of the furniture in our home was sold or moved to my mom’s apartment, we ate dinner at our rickety avocado green card table. That card table was a plethora of memories, from an extension to the dinner table at holidays as our family grew, to weekend games of Euchre with our beloved aunts, uncles and cousins. We talked about the fact that there would be no more Thanksgivings or Christmas holidays in that room. I looked at the beauty of knotty pine walls and guessed that the new owners may consider covering these walls with paint or dry wall.
The wood burning stove was the only thing left in the dining room. When burning, that stove would allow us to wear shorts and T-shirt when the chilling Michigan winds dropped below zero. Mom liked it warm inside and we would joke that it would be a balmy Christmas no matter what the weather was outside.
Being the youngest of six, I thought of my siblings, who had even more memories than I. However, it was my mom that really had to let go. She is having to start over and leave behind the memories of not only her six children but of the man she was married to for over 60 years.
Every drawer, closet and box we cleaned stirred up lots of memories and emotions. I was especially sad as I thought of my son, nieces, nephews and their children. My son at twenty-two has a few memories, but my nieces children would never have the gift of the full experience and knowing how much this farm meant to their parent’s, grandparent’s and great grandparent’s.
I took one last walk down the lane, past the orchard, the pond and out to the root cellar. As silly as it sounds, I wanted to hug the trees, land, house, barn and garage. I wanted to thank them for giving me so many beautiful memories and joy, These things all shaped me into the person I am and my love for nature and healing. Since I couldn’t physically hug them, I hugged them in my heart and thanked God for giving me every memory and experience on that farm. I pray the next inhabitants experience as much peace, love and joy as we have.
Goodbyes are never easy but I am grateful to God and my brother Dennis for taking care of our farm for all these years since my dad passed away. This gift enabled mom to live in her “home sweet home” many more years than would have been possible on her own.