To The Nicholson Family,
Very sorry to hear of Darrell's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love." Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide."
― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
Some of my most vivid memories from my childhood are of the family farms in the Ottawa Valley and my beloved uncles who each imparted to us that there was something awfully special about being a 'farm kid'.
My siblings and I were 'city kids', but whenever we visited our Uncle Darrell/Aunt Sylvia's and Uncle Stuart/Aunt Carol's farms, we felt more 'connected': To the land, to our extended family, to each other.
Yes, my Uncle Darrell was a bit rough around the edges, but even as a child, I could tell there was gentleness that lingered below the surface. He was a farmer, through and through, and if I close my eyes, I can still picture him standing in the old farmhouse's kitchen, muddy rubber boots and all.
He had mellowed somewhat over the years, but when I saw him at our family reunion this past June, I could still see the mischievous glint in his eyes, even as we sat and talked quietly about his health and the challenges he had been facing.
"I wouldn't wish this on anyone," he whispered to me quietly, his voice trembling with a mixture of sadness and defiance.
I paused before I spoke. "I'm glad to see you again, Uncle Darrell... I've missed you."
I didn't expect an "I've missed you too" back -- it wasn't his nature. But, he did smile -- just a hint of a smile, mind you -- as he pointed to my brother's toddler son who was thoroughly enjoying an enthusiastic game of soccer as he was carried around the field in the arms of my cousin Todd's wife, Emily. "He's quite the package," he said matter-of-factly.
Now it was my turn to grin. 'Full circle', I remember thinking at the time. I imagined the quiet satisfaction my aunts and uncles must have felt as they watched all of us play on and around the farms when we were kids.
"It's a good day, isn't it, Uncle Darrell," I finally answered.
"Yeah," he said. "This is a good day." And then I got just one more of those sideways Uncle Darrell smiles.
Although we miss you so very much already, you are free from the pain and you are now at peace -- this is another one of those 'good days', Uncle Darrell.
Goodbye, Uncle Darrell -- you are forever the muddy-boots-in-Aunt-Sylvia's kitchen giant of a man from my childhood, and I love you.