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devastating blow to the leafy foliage that had previously surrounded the pumpkins and other squash. Clearly, it was time to harvest the remaining vegetables and turn under the remnants of stems and leaves, which now lay strewn about the ground like lifeless brown ghosts. He promptly strode to the barn looking for a spade to turn under the wilted stems and leaves, thereby returning Earth to Earth. He looked high and low for the spade. It was not hanging in its usual spot, nor was it hiding in other locations. He worriedly searched, as a missing tool was one of the things that made him feel mildly panicked. After all, a garden tool does not just get up and walk away of its own accord! Perturbed, but not angry, he continued to look about for the missing implement. He would not rest until the errant tool was located.
He finally decided to find his father and ask him if he had seen the garden spade recently. Haybaler walked down the hill towards the back shed, expecting to find his father minding the still. He did not immediately see his father, so he glanced towards the backside of the shed, where the woodpile was stacked. Haybaler gasped as he witnessed his father splayed motionless upon the ground next to the woodpile, with the missing spade laying haphazard in the midst of chopped weeds and dirt. There lying face up was his father, not breathing and quite pale. Haybaler’s shock and dismay at finding his father’s lifeless body was sudden and overwhelming. Bewildered and panicked, the range and confusion of feelings that swept over him at that moment were unmanageable. The old man was down and the space was around him was quiet. His father was not cursing under his breath, which was his usual demeanor. Haybaler leaned forward on one knee above his father and experienced for the first time a depth of silence that he had never known. There was no denying that the old man had never looked so peaceful, as he then looked in death.
He felt a choking sensation around his throat as tears welled up in his eyes. Crying was not an experience familiar to him. His chest heaved, and with a great movement of air an uncontrolled sobbing was heard throughout the surrounding woods. In response to this grieving the woods became quiet. The usual din of bird calls and squirrel chatter was stilled in a moment of reverence for the dearly departed. Haybaler did not hold back the flow of heartfelt grieving, which overwhelmed him so suddenly. He felt completely overwhelmed and did not know what to do. He loved his father dearly, and now he was gone?
The good dog Winston had been by Bill’s side, whimpering in an attempt to somehow revive his master. His faithful dog had maintained the vigil for hours, but could not restore the big man. As Haybaler cried over his father’s body, Winston licked his hand, as if to console the pain of human loss and suffering, in a manner that only a faithful dog could provide. Haybaler returned the warm gesture by petting Winston in the most endearing and loving way possible. Eye to eye, Haybaler and Winston shared a moment of knowing and mutual acceptance.
Just as the tears began to subside, Haybaler experienced an unexpected moment of peace and clarity. He perceived the gurgling of the stream and the slight rustling of leaves in the breeze, as if they were new and vibrant sounds never experienced before. It was as if the window of perceiving Reality as it really is, had swung open to reveal a deeper beauty, where the perceiver and the perceived become unified. For that one moment, he observed the surrounding woods and himself as part of a larger and more vibrant, Presence. He would never be able to describe that experience with words, but he felt subtly strengthened with a deeper understanding of Life. He wondered if this moment of Presence, was like the clarity of repose to which the deceased return. It was a comforting thought.
Haybaler had not expected his father to die of a heart attack at such a young age. The big man was only 67 years old on that fateful day. He collapsed while working to clear overgrown weeds along the woodpile, on the backside of the shed. The wearing of years and the pull of gravity had taken its inevitable toll upon Bill Stiles’ frame. His youthful posture gave way to a forward slouching of the shoulders, as if he could no longer bear the weight of this weary world. With each tired step it seemed as if the burden of his life increased.
These were Haybaler’s thoughts as he lifted his father’s heavy body and slowly walked towards the family home. As he held his father in his arms, he looked up and saw the old Cottonwood tree that had graced a beautiful spot on Sorghum Creek for many generations. The aged branches were filled with Red Winged Blackbirds singing their blissful song of life, upwards towards the heavens. At that moment, Haybaler sensed that his father had somehow been delivered upwards unto God’s divine pasture. On Earth, his father had once enjoyed the flowing melody of Sorghum Creek, and he now perceived the river of light and sound, which flows from God’s home. Intuitively, Haybaler knew the appearance of death is only a hiatus in the grand play, which takes place on this Earth. And the beloved land is the stage where the dramas of life are portrayed upon the screen of natures’ Presence.