Today marks the one year anniversary of my best friends bringing their daughter into the world, and the passing of my Uncle James. I have been thinking of the verses in Ecclesiastes that say “there is a time and a season for everything under the sun; a time to be born, a time to die, a time to rejoice and a time to mourn.”
My Mom called on my way home from work and told me about James passing, that he had a heart attack and the Doctor’s did everything they could. I was so shocked, I pulled into a metered parking spot on the road and turned off the car. She told me to call Sadie, I did, then I called his daughter, Austyn. I called Mom back and she had already made arrangements for us to go up that weekend. I had just started my new job, working for a cork company and helping project manage for a local carpenter.
I sat in my car for a long time. It was raining, I watched it run down my windshield. I listened to the drops falling from the big, beautiful oak trees above, on the roof of my car. I don’t know how long I sat there, but by the time I pulled into the garage, I knew with everything inside of me that I would move to the farm. To help Sadie, to learn how to make a living there, to pick up where Jack and James so suddenly left off.
It was not until later that evening that I found out my best friend had her daughter that same day. I was sitting on their living room floor when they told me they were expecting, I had just gotten back from a weekend in Tennessee and was telling them about the horses and everything. I asked how their weekend was, she looked at her husband, then looked at me and said “Well, we’re pregnant!” I jumped up and said “Why did you let me talk about horses so long?” We hugged and cried, happy tears, it was an answer to so many prayers.
I’m heading to Savannah tomorrow to see those friends again, to celebrate the one year their daughter has been with us, a sassy, charming grinning little girl. I am still amazed at how everything is so connected.
Sadie got my cousins today, James’ children, they are on Spring Break this week. We went over to Uncle Rick’s house for dinner and swapped stories about James. When he worked at Dixie Stampede, when he forgot to tighten his saddle before cutting cows, when he took me back to the Livestock Center to pick up Tug. I was so excited I was about to come out of my skin. He didn’t say anything, just smiled and slowly shook his head. He knew exactly how I felt, the situation didn’t need any words and he realized that.
There was a story I thought of at dinner that I didn’t want to share out loud, it’s still a little raw for me. It was 2 summers ago, I came up from Savannah on a weekend and we had a wonderful time riding, laughing, eating, and enjoying the farm. I had Tug out on a halter and rope, letting him pick the good grass under the pecan tree, by the old milk shed. He was sleek and glossy, his coat shiny from brushing. I was just sitting in the shade, watching him, trying to soak it all in and take back with me. James came outside and sat with me, faded jeans, old blue t-shirt, his grey hair in a low pony tail and his cowboy hat on his head.
We didn’t say anything for a while, just listened to Tug eat. I sighed, and he said “It’s hard having your heart in two places.” I wanted so badly to bring the farm to Savannah, or bring Savannah to the farm, to somehow bring my two worlds together so I could have both. I hadn’t realized that I would be living here, not until James was gone.
I miss him, every day. His voice, his hands that knew what to do for a jumpy horse. His big green truck and his Alabama CD pouring through the speakers above the sound of the wind. Whenever I see a hawk wheeling overhead, I think of him.
Tomorrow we drive to the mountains to visit his grave. He is surrounded by the most beautiful ranges of the Smoky Mountains, which may still have snow on the tops. His heeler, Abbie, will go with us. I will take a small jar of dirt from the barn to leave behind. Just so he can have a piece of us with him too.