Over the weekend, we headed back out to the farm for the first time as a family since my dad passed. Griffin and I had already been there (short reflection on that here) and during that trip, I found myself glancing toward the couch, expecting Dad to be laying there, ready to ask if he need anything, to pull the blanket tight over his feet, or watch him breathe for a second as he slept. It was the D.C. – During Cancer – Fritz whose presence I was missing the most then.
Exactly one year ago, my family and I pulled up to the farm after packing up and moving from Tampa early so we could be near my dad as he battled his illness.
This past Friday, we pulled up the drive once again for the boys’ first visit without him there. I was a little worried about their reaction since in the previous weeks they learned that he actually died while they were in the house but found comfort in the fact that they still love the farm just as much as they did two months ago.
The flurry of normal activity naturally occurred without them skipping a beat and all the sudden it wasn’t the D.C. Fritz I was looking for, but the B.C. – Before Cancer – Fritz who I struggled with not being there.
I wanted him in the man shed answering Griff’s questions of “What’s dat tool do?”, hollering at the kids to not throw rocks in the pool, mixing Bloody Mary’s as soon as we walked in, giving Kev a hard time for whatever he wanted to give Kev a hard time about, teaching the boys to ride bigger motorcycles and showing off whatever his latest improvement to The Farm was.
The last weekend my whole family gathered at the property was 3 days after Fritz called us all to say that the cancer had spread and there was nothing left to do. I mentioned then that the disease robbed us of a lot of things, but I don’t think I truly allowed myself to feel it until this weekend. Even though he lived as much as he could, Fritz never recovered from the side effects of the treatments and while being grateful for the time we had, I finally mourned how much he suffered, and how much of him we lost, over the past two years.
On Friday night, the boys begged to do a bonfire so we lit up a small one in the yard and when Cullen mentioned that he was hoping to see a firefly, my mom responded that she didn’t think it was quite warm enough for them to be back for the season yet.
As the sun disappeared over the mountains, Cullen exclaimed with delight that he spotted a light in the grass. He picked up a single firefly and let it go into the air, following it into the bigger field on the other side of the man shed. Without thinking too much about it, we all followed too and there, sure enough, was a field full of fire flies lighting up the night.
We stood and watched the show for a while and then announced it was time to go in for bed. A single firefly, perhaps the same one that led us to the field in the first place, landed on Bennett’s hand and rode with him all the way back to the house without flying away. When we got to the door, B leaned in, kissed the bug and said “Love You” before letting him go in the grass.
If we had any doubts that Fritz’s isn’t still trying to wow the kids, it was dispelled at that moment.
The next morning, my sister in law and her family arrived to play and help around the farm (Can’t say enough about my brother in law Pete who saw and did without being asked – we are indebted to you!) and we realized the whole weekend was a glimpse to what A.C. – After Cancer – looks like.
It is full of love and laughter, loss and longing. It is thankful for a life well spent and angry at a life cut too soon. It is a place where we can cry and smile in the same moment, cherish all the memories we have and relish in those that are still waiting to be made, and gratefully, a place where we can feel Fritz’s presence at every turn.
Hopefully, most of all, it will be full of a lot small miracles like a field full of fireflies.