Monday, October 30, 2017

Time to mourn

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

My Auntie Konnie’s time to die came on Friday, October 13.

In several ways, the past two weeks have been some of the hardest of my life.

One of the hardest parts has been the need to explain who Auntie Konnie was and why saying goodbye to her hurts so much. Apparently, at least from the countless quizzical looks, most people don’t think losing an aunt should bring so much grief.

But Konnie was more than an aunt.

My mother worked a full-time job an hour’s drive away from our farm. When my sisters and I were little, Mom dropped us off at Konnie’s house for the day. When we were a couple years older, Konnie started coming to our house instead. We spent as many of our growing-up hours with Konnie as we did with anyone else. And her willingness to run her daycare business out of our home meant my sisters and I had an incredible world: a houseful of kids to play with, a dairy farm to roam over, and being close enough to Dad and Grandpa that we saw them everyday, too, and were there to pitch in with farm chores as we grew old enough to help.

Konnie was the one who taught us how to cook and clean; that barn language belonged in the barn, not the house; and that lying about your misbehavior was far worse than misbehaving itself.

We knew Konnie’s time with us was limited. Three years ago, almost to the day of her death, we almost lost her to septicemia following a cortisol injection. The recovery from that ordeal was long and complicated, but Konnie came out of it with a renewed appreciation for life. The sadness that had filled her when her only son (and only child) died in 2013 seemed to lift away.

Konnie’s long recovery gave us our turn to take care of her. Then, a bout with pneumonia this spring led to the discovery of a suspected tumor in her lungs. Konnie never smoked a cigarette in her life, but cancer doesn’t follow the rules.

Konnie was too frail for surgery or chemotherapy, so we worked to accept the inevitable. But knowing death is coming doesn’t it make it any easier to accept. The grieving is still just as hard.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop spinning – even for a moment – to allow time for grief. There is no time to mourn. The grieving just keeps on while you go through the motions of living. Numb to the core, but still moving. The kids need supper and help with their homework and clean clothes for school tomorrow. The cows need to be milked. There are no mental health days for dairy farmers – or moms.

At the same time I lament these relentless demands I am thankful for both my family and my farm. Thankful I’m not grieving alone. Thankful for the joyful moments our children create – smiles that pierce through the sadness. Thankful for a job that allows me to keep working while my mind remembers, grieves, and heals. Cows don’t care if I cry while I milk.

This post first appeared as a column in the October 28, 2017 issue of the Dairy Star.

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