The Gardener

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.

 

Tomatoes on the vine in my Mom and Dad’s garden. If only I could pick one and eat it now!

Tomatoes on the vine in my Mom and Dad’s garden. If only I could pick one and eat it now!

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.

My Dad was already sick here, but he and my Mom forged ahead with their garden that year. I’m so thankful I came home to eat their tomatoes.

My Dad was already sick here, but he and my Mom forged ahead with their garden that year. I’m so thankful I came home to eat their tomatoes.

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?"

 

I’m not a tomato-grower, but I sure love to eat them! Especially those homegrown ones that I can pick right off the vine. Especially those my Mom and Dad grew in their backyard. In the same spot my Grandpa John grew his garden.

I’m not a tomato-grower, but I sure love to eat them! Especially those homegrown ones that I can pick right off the vine. Especially those my Mom and Dad grew in their backyard. In the same spot my Grandpa John grew his garden.

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.

 

But tonight

your hopes and dreams are offered

for anyone who wants

to harvest them.

The bounty from my Mom and Dad’s garden. Oh, to have that again!

The bounty from my Mom and Dad’s garden. Oh, to have that again!

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.

My Dad. How I love to remember him.

My Dad. How I love to remember him.

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