Sometime last fall, I saw a Facebook post from Erin (Chatterton) Featherlin, as she balanced a little four-year-old farm boy in the buddy seat and ran the auger wagon. I thought to myself, how far they’ve come.
Erin is my friend and so is the rest of her family, and we were devastated when her dad was killed four years ago. It was a car accident on a snowy morning. An icy highway, a single car and a single fatality. I’ll never forget my husband’s phone call to tell me and the subsequent calls from friends and neighbors, all asking the same disbelieving question: “Is it true?”
It was, and it was a loss of terrific and sudden proportions. Greg was a good father, farmer, friend and brother in Christ.
I’ve watched his family over these four years and marveled at how they’ve held each other up, how they loved each other, and how they stepped into new roles. I also observed how they re-organized the farm, how Erin and her cousin, Jason, became more involved, and how effortless it all looked.
That is, of course, where the best stories lie, since none of it is effortless and every day it’s difficult. But it takes time to share a story like theirs; it’s all too raw in the beginning, and too wearying in the immediate years after. So when I approached Erin and her uncle Brett, I was really grateful that they felt ready to talk about it. That Erin’s mom, Charlotte, felt ready to talk about it.
Because the thing is, I’ve met dozens of farmers over the years who’ve spoken of how they came to farm: it happened when Dad died. Often, earlier than anyone considered possible. And so while the Chatterton family’s loss was tragic and unique in so many ways, there are a lot of farm families for whom their story will resonate.
Loss always creates opportunity for someone else.
That’s the difficult thing, isn’t it? To know you’re living your dream because someone else no longer walks the earth. And when that someone is your beloved loved one, it’s impossible to reconcile. And difficult to put words to.
But Erin and Brett have tried. We had a good and honest conversation this past fall, on one of their final harvest days. Little kids played in a nearby dirt pile, corn stalks blew around, while Jason ran the combine nearby, and another brother, Josiah, operated the auger wagon.
Give it a listen above and as I’ve said before, I’m no farm broadcaster. But I love nothing more than a real and relevant conversation with a farmer in a field. I think you’ll like this one, too.
For more on the Chatterton Family story: