A farmer’s gift

Posted 11/8/23

The door opened quietly. She entered slowly, reaching a hand down to the burlap bag hanging from a piece of clothesline pulled taut across her torso. Bending toward the brown sack, a long gray braid …

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A farmer’s gift


The door opened quietly. She entered slowly, reaching a hand down to the burlap bag hanging from a piece of clothesline pulled taut across her torso. Bending toward the brown sack, a long gray braid fell across her shoulder.

Gnarled fingers gripped the silky threads dangling over the top of the bag pulling out six ears of corn, placing each plump, green ear along the length of the reception desk.

The old woman, wrapped in a gray coat and wearing muddy work boots, was in our medical office for her physical. On subsequent visits potatoes and green beans appeared. And every fall apples were rolled out.

She was a lifelong farmer and remained a patient of ours for several years, always bringing fruits and vegetables, but the food bounty paled in comparison to the remarkable treasure of her presence. Her name was Helen, and everyone connected to our practice longed to be like her.

Odd things happened when Helen arrived. The chatter in the waiting room stopped. The staff went from high-speed scurrying to easy steps. A palpable calm came over the room. Helen always wore a pleasant smile that seemed more for her than for show. Clear, emerald eyes danced to the soft tones of her voice. An unassuming “good morning” brought everyone on staff to her side.

We fought over whose turn it was to take her vitals and who would assist in her exam. And none of us got antsy when doctor deliberately took forever with her visit. When she left, everyone in the office was a little calmer for the rest of the day.

The moments of unexplained composure continued with each appointment until her health declined and she was admitted to hospice care.

Several weeks later, I was having breakfast with a girlfriend who worked as a hospice nurse. She had just gotten off a double shift. “You must be exhausted,” I commented. “Not really,” she said. “I asked to stay the extra hours.”

She explained that a much-loved patient had slipped away during the night with the entire staff at her side.

“We wanted one last moment in her presence before the mystery was lost forever,” said my friend. “Everyone wanted to be with her, be like her, and yet no one knew exactly what that meant. What we did know was that her existence was special. Helen was a soul beyond the norm.”

I was teary. This was our office farmer. I quietly kept my own memories but understood the magic.

While Helen wasn’t interested in computers, or cell phones, spiritually she was light years ahead of the world. She owned a serenity that had nothing to do with anyone else, yet everyone gleaned a calming moment from her, soaking up her quiet aura, embracing the warmth.

Being in the company of Helen was akin to entering into a state of relaxation. She replaced the bombardment of life with a tranquility that took a person deep into themselves to the experience of a breath softening, a heart slowing, a mind escaping the mundane to rest for a time on the mystique of a woman who stopped the nonsense.

Helen exhibited the very real possibility of being able to be at peace with one’s place in the universe. Her presence joined each soul to a loving energy.

How often I wondered if a person had to be born that way, or did I simply not know where to begin.

Today I work on the lessons. Her silent teachings remind me that I can experience my own path of harmony in a turbulent world. At any given moment I can stop, inhale the magnificence of life, feel my connection, and exhale a silent thank you.

Doubt I’ll ever get to her level of personal peace, but what a privilege it is to try. What an honor to have known her.

May we all replace, at least for a time, the bombardment of negativity, reaching deep for that inner serenity waiting to be recognized and experienced. With love and gratitude for my encounters with an extraordinary human being I share, as best I can, a farmer’s gift.

Carole Marshall is a former columnist, feature writer for a national magazine, author of three books. She writes today about the often fun, often daunting concept of AGING IN GOOD SPIRITS. She is Mom, Grandma, Great-Grandma to some spectacular kiddos.