"Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives."
~ A. Sachs
My mind is elsewhere this evening, as it has been for a few days now. My mind should be here; I should be focused on the snoozing puppy, the steaming cup of tea, or at the very least, I should be doing laundry or packing tomorrow’s lunch. But every now and then, out of a perfect blue sky on the most perfect of autumn days, one’s world becomes forever changed.
I wish I had the words to depict the glowing corn tassels as they danced in the glitter of the setting sun. They swooshed back and forth, exchanging dance partners, as the gentle evening breeze moved quiet prayers poignantly between the stalks, through the field, over the rolling valley, and onto the next world. The sight was most magical.
Yesterday, they buried her. Her children, that is.
In a simple pine box, she was laid to rest, and her five children, along with the father, buried her. They shoveled and shoveled, covering her with love and blessings, sending her Home.
Can you even imagine? The oldest married last weekend. The youngest is in the third grade. Mothers are important. Mothers are necessary. And I’m quite saddened that they no longer have theirs.
My friend and I drove solemnly to the family farm, constantly questioning the state of the children, their emotions, and their thoughts.
We rounded the final turn and parked in a field of cut hay. We waited in the most perfect of barns and we sat on beautifully carved wooden benches. Neither of us had ever been to a home viewing before.
Behind us, on long tables, sat hundreds of black hats and bonnets. In front of us sat adults and a hundred or so very young children. With our clothing and make-up, we stood out--but no one seemed to mind. We were welcomed, warmly and with sincere gratitude.
For about 45 minutes we sat, waiting for the family to return from their evening meal. All the while, people came and went, exchanging quiet greetings, firm handshakes, and sympathetic expressions. Never once did a cry echo through the barn. Never once did a theatrical sob break the serene stillness.
Rather, tears found resting places in fine lines and pockets above cheekbones. Emotions, while present, were expressed with the utmost of composure and reverence.
Children--young, young children--waited patiently. Every now and then they would smile at one another, or playfully kick at the ground. But never once did one of those young, young children express any sign of disrespect. Never once did they complain. Never once did they ask for anything.
Finally, it was our turn. We made our way through the barn and into the garage. Inside, we saw them. All of the children, lined up in order of age (oldest to youngest) at the side of their mother’s casket. “There’s Mrs. Wheeler,” one of them whispered to the other. And with that, a tear slid down my cheek.
A tiny, pious woman, dressed in her white burial frock and bonnet, she beamed with a spirit that most of the living never display. Her children, clad in their pale pink dresses and plain button-down shirts, remained collected and poised. I, on the other hand, did my best to hold back tears.
I’m forever changed. I’ve never seen such beauty. I’ve never seen such peace.
It’s difficult to describe the types of relationships that form when one teaches in a small, rural school. The children literally grow up with us. The bonds form and we chat and confide and cheer and comfort. And, for better or worse, those children—they become our family.
The loss of such a beautiful life made me a better person. Seeing their way of life, although so traditional and basic, has only confirmed what I knew all along: Simplicity. Relationships. Nurturing. Love.