Rain fell lightly as we walked together to the woods in which all of us played as kids to say good bye to my brother, John. Past the house, just to the left, of the wonderful family who now own the property that used to belong to my grandparents. We are so grateful to them for allowing us to celebrate life in this way.
My grandparents farmed this 80 acres in the south east corner of Noble County from about 1938 until shortly before Grandma Jennie Weigold died in 1979. My dad helped work this land when they still used horses to plow.
When John, Peg and Brian were little, John (the eldest) showed them how to walk through the woods like natives, each stepping in the first person’s tracks so no one could tell how many of them there were. This patch of woods, like others around here, is original growth: never cut. Though the first inhabitants practiced land management in the form of controlled undergrowth burns, this is a remnant of the forest that used to stretch from the Great Lakes down into Kentucky.
A comforting mix of old friends and family–some of whom we are in daily touch with and some we hadn’t seen in years–came for the simple commemoration.
We came to this little clearing and raked away the leaves. We spoke a few words about what a nature lover and gentle man John was. We sang “I’ll Fly Away.” We spread John’s ashes on the ground, and some of Brian’s too. We covered them over again with leaves.
We walked back to the house. Friends from John’s high school days, even his high school basketball coach stayed to tell stories. John would have been touched and surprised by that. He was in the last proud graduating class of Wolf Lake High School in 1968, before consolidation into Central Noble.
His friend Bob W told me that he remembered John frequently saying he couldn’t do something with them the next night because he was going to take me to a movie or a basketball game. Nice to realize that he actually planned those great times, that they didn’t just happen because he had nothing better to do.
The view of the woods from the sliding glass doors at Mom’s house. That afternoon the rain came down harder, and I thought how good it is that the process of returning those boys to the earth they loved has begun. They’ll be part of those trees before too long.