We always miss them. Some days more than others. Some months more than others. Some years more than others. July is one of the months when I miss my Dad the most. Because of homegrown tomatoes.
In his later years, my Dad loved to garden. He joined my Mom in growing the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. No tomato I’ve ever bought in a store or at a farmstand even comes close to those grown in the backyard at 409 North Bryan Street in West Frankfort, Illinois.
Treasure those memories. They will get you through the hardest days of grief. Even if you shed a few tears. And even if you must eat an average homegrown tomato.
The Gardener (1988)
In evening dampness
as the sun is drawn
beneath the dark horizon
I walk barefooted to your garden.
Summer heat and lack of water
have left your tomato plants
withered and dry.
Glowing between the leaves
I spot tomatoes you hoped for
luscious and red
ready to eat.
As I touch their tender fullness
I hear you say,
"The tomatoes are ready.
When are you coming home?"
Your tomatoes are ready.
I sit in soft summer grass
choose one from the vine
bite into its juicy ripeness
savoring the silent communion
with those parts of you
that have grown in me.
Tomorrow we will dig up the garden
turn the earth over onto your plants
bury them beneath the soil.
your hopes and dreams are offered
for anyone who wants
to harvest them.
Another Gardener (1992)
Turning over buried memories
with each shovelful of dirt
I dig the garden today.
You join me in the family ritual.
I see you smiling
as you stand in the shade of the old maple
hands reaching into pockets
jingling keys and change.
Your legacy is mixed in the dark soil
clinging to tendrils of roots
surprising me in each hole I dig.
I plant my hopes and dreams today
water them with tears
knowing you won't be here for my harvest.
As the sun is drawn beneath the dark horizon
I lean on your shovel
surveying the plot
contemplating what drew me back.
Can I break the cycle of leaving?
Will each fruit of labor move me farther away?
When the tomatoes are ready this year
I will remind myself
home is not where you are or were
I carry home inside of me.
Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2019 by Laura Warfel