Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Letter to Kaleigh

At the funeral of a dear friend, we were asked to write a letter to her toddler granddaughter so that a scrapbook might be compiled. Although the funeral was more than three months ago, I am only now able to finish the letter I began then.

It seems the writing of the letter would be used by God to speak to my heart about underlying issues needing addressing.

During the months surrounding the funeral, God sent several scriptures across my path that have caused me to do some reflecting. I hope the circumstances will be used to shape me into the girl God wants me to be.


Dear Kayleigh,

I first met your grandmother, Melissa, when she visited our organic farm in the summer of 2009. Her cancer was in remission and she was searching for raw milk to aid in her continued recovery. She was full of life and hope. In talking with her I realized she was incredibly knowledgeable about natural resources for fighting disease and I looked forward to learning a lot from her.

Although she had just finished a fierce battle for her life, she reached out to encourage me as I was struggling in my new role as a farm wife. We had just moved into an abandoned, one-hundred-year-old house on a rented farm so that we could continue to grow and meet the demands of the families who were searching for real milk.

She was so desirous that I have something of beauty in the old house that she dried a bouquet of hydrangeas from her garden and gave them to me. Her testimony and appreciation for life had a profound effect on me that summer. I never look at the bouquet that I don't remember her kindness to reach out to me when truly she was the one deserving of encouragement.

As your grandmother's strength continued to increase, she used her days wisely as she diligently sought to educate others about the importance of wholesome, chemical-free foods to fight disease. Only a decade older than myself, she had the energy of a youth, and organized a well-attended seminar with a renowned doctor and also founded a support group for the health-conscious community in which she served.

When I told her our oldest daughter was engaged, she was so excited and quickly offered to help with the wedding flowers since she had enjoyed making bouquets for brides in the past. What an incredibly gifted floral designer she was! She made a bouquet for Meredith's wedding with one hundred live stephanotis flowers where she laboriously removed the inner stem and replaced each one with a pearl. It was truly breathtaking. We later learned that a purchased similar bouquet would have cost $700. Yet, she lovingly prepared the exquisite bouquet in exchange for milk.

When our younger daughter, at age three, was missing her big sister in the weeks following the wedding, your grandmother emailed often to check on our little Sheridan. At Christmas, your grandmother gave Meredith and Sheridan matching ornaments so they'd always have "sister ornaments" to unite them.

Your grandmother was also a gifted photographer and it seemed that you were her most favorite subject to capture in photos. Kayleigh, you've been on my refrigerator a whole year as your grandmother gave me the most beautiful picture that she took of you on the beach during a family vacation. What a treasure you were to her.

As your grandmother continued to enjoy making healthy recipes with the milk, she asked if she could come spend the day with me sometime to learn how to make cheeses. Although I told her yes, my thoughts immediately turned to the reality of what a day is like on the farm and I felt hesitant to schedule a cheese-making day together.

She didn't know that my days are dictated minute by minute by the demands of the farm. Any given task of my day was ordinarily interrupted with customers' phone calls, corralling kids to get their farm chores done, hanging out one load of laundry after another, washing one load of milk jars after another, answering the farm's business emails that had accumulated over the last couple of hours, and at times almost running through the house to try hard to get all the work done that day.

Cheese-making fit in between the many, many interruptions. "No," I figured, "Melissa doesn't want to enter into this chaos simply to learn to make cheese." So I never put a date on the calendar.

Not long after that conversation, your grandmother asked me to pray because she wasn't feeling well.

We were so hopeful. I just knew she'd surely rally once again and be victorious as she had in the first round of the battle. Your grandmother was filled with determination that she'd emerge a conqueror as she had before. I didn't doubt her for a minute.

I realized I would be having a short break in my otherwise hectic schedule because my younger kids would be visiting with grandparents and I imagined the visit with your grandmother that had never taken place earlier.

I thought I'd call and we could meet somewhere to just enjoy a cup of tea. But as the monstrous weight of farm responsibilities pulled me down those days, I found myself turning fifty gallons of milk into butter so the extra milk that the cows had produced wouldn't go to waste.

The day I had hoped would offer a chance to break away for a visit turned into just another day of chaotic, fast-paced farm work.

Within days I left for Georgia to spend time with our oldest daughter who was now expecting a baby. I heard that your grandmother wasn't doing well at all. I talked with several friends and family and they said your grandmother would not survive the battle this time.

Oh how I cried. Knowing that I traded my recent chance to visit with her for making butter grieved my heart so badly. I begged God to please let her live until I got back home.

She sent me a late night email soon after and asked me to call. As we talked I told her how she had shaped my life by her testimony. I told her that she had such a powerful influence in the direction of the farm as we continued to implement organic practices we learned because of her.

I assured her I'd come see her just as soon as I got home. She asked that I bring Sheridan as well as pictures of Meredith's soon-to-arrive new baby.

We left Georgia on a Monday evening and drove through the night so we wouldn't waste daylight, working hours on driving. My thoughts were on your grandmother so often. In the quiet hours of the night drive, I'd think, then pray, then think some more, then pray again. I was so hopeful that I'd get to see your grandmother one more time.

When I got home Tuesday morning, September 20th, after having been gone for three weeks, my house looked more like the outdoors than the indoors. The hard weeks of baling hay for the guys who stayed behind, left a trail of what seemed like a grassy forest in my home. I quickly began straightening but kept my eye on the clock, waiting for what I figured was a decent hour to call your grandmother's house to see if I could come for a visit.

But I was too late. She had passed away while I was driving home. She was gone.

Oh Kayleigh, I am struggling with regret. I traded my last chance to see her for butter. Oh how heavy my heart is.

You looked like a little angel at the funeral. She loved you so much. You brought so much happiness into your grandmother's life.

May you be like she was, Kayleigh - one who prioritizes service to others, friendship, thoughtfulness, and kindness. May your life be a continuation of hers as you spread joy to all those who know you. May your life be characterized by loving others in such a way that you have no regrets.

Much love,

Joy Alexander


"Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint." Proverbs 23:4

"...Don't live to make a good impression on others..." Philippians 2:3a

The Lord used these verses and Melissa's death, along with other circumstances, to speak to my heart about the fast-paced, super busy work schedule I keep. I realize that although I don't work hard in hopes of becoming rich, I work hard for other reasons and it produces the same bad results. Sometimes I work extra hard because I can't bear to see something go to waste, sometimes it's because I want the challenge of turning nothing into something, sometimes it's to make a good impression on others. What has this obsession with productivity cost me? What will I lose if I don't change? What have I already lost? I desperately want the Lord to change me so I won't have a future filled with regrets.