Before we moved to our farm, we had lived for ten years on two acres on a short, dead-end road which turned into a country bike lane, meadows and fields of berries, all near a creek. It was the perfect place for a huge garden, to raise a large family and to foster a sense of community with a handful of neighbours.
One of our neighbours was a valley man of Irish descent- Ceil Folley. When he died, all my kids returned to honour his memory.
Everyone else had left the funeral home but we stood in a large circle with Cecil’s family. We shared another amusing memory and laughed together. I had broken the ice with the first story involving Cecil and my kids but soon everyone spoke up and added their favourite memory of Cecil and the Juneau’s.
The atmosphere was reminiscent of a traditional Irish wake. I looked around the circle at our former neighbour’s smiles and I was surprised, surprised the antics of our large family had been so entertaining and memorable to Cecil and his clan. They had been thoroughly amused by all my creative activities but, in my mind, I had simply done whatever came to my mind to keep a lot of little people busy, safe and happy.
Now teenagers, Cecil’s grand-daughters were still delighted with my summer tradition of filling a baby bathtub with ice and snow from my old-fashioned freezer. They played for more than an hour with spoons, cups, bowls and food colouring as I kept the tub filled with frosty snow.
Cecil’s widow especially enjoyed the memory of our “walks” down our short, dead-end country lane. It was a virtual parade that consisted of children all under 12 vying for the opportunity to push the baby in a buggy, a toddler riding on a wagon, dutifully pulled by one of the older kids, a preschool child sitting on bright yellow duck with wheels, bikes, and tricycles ridden in circles around younger siblings and me, usually pregnant, sipping a nice hot cup of tea and walking as slowly as possible.
I think the image of my two-year-old son sitting on Cecil’s knee “helping “ cut grass with a lawn tractor is the best example of his kindness. Matthew was thrilled simply to sit on the small tractor, even when it was parked.
This excitement over tractors never dimmed. As Matthew grew, he had to stand on the back of the tractor and finally by seven-years-old, he could no longer hitch a ride but could only WALK behind the tractor. My son was still out there with Cecil, walking up and down the rows of grass for hours because Cecil was Matthew best friend in those days. The foundation of their friendship rooted in their mutual love of tractors.
One evening, around 7:30, after Matthew’s bath, I called him for a bedtime story. Matthew peered out the window, watching Cecil work in his garden. This three-year-old turned to me and wondered why HE had to go to bed,
“BUT Cecil is still up!”
I did not preach to my lapsed Catholic neighbours but I think the love of God pierced their hearts and joy filled their memories of one large, Catholic family.
connecting with theology is a verb