“…and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee…” Hebrews 13:5b.
They always came together.
While donning knee pads, he would exchange pleasant conversation. She would wait patiently, smiling as if she were happy to be doing something beside her husband. Soon they would be crawling down a row of our Pick-Your-Own strawberry field, he on one side of the row, and she on the other. Together they moved down the long row at a steady pace. After a long time they would carry buckets of carefully picked strawberries to the scales.
Knowing I was often short on change, he began stopping at the bank on their way to the berry patch so he could pay his bill in mostly ones and quarters. They came every year for many years, and they were among my list of favorite customers.
They cared about others. They cared about each other. She was hard of hearing, but he was alert to her needs, occasionally touching her gently to get her attention. Sometimes I wondered how she managed to put away all the berries they picked. But she always smiled sweetly and spoke of sharing the berries with their children. I envisioned this elderly couple sitting together at home, plucking caps off buckets of strawberries. Together.
This year she came alone. No tall, though stooped, frame shadowed her petite one. No one knelt beside her in the row. She came to pick alone.
She told me how he died, and I cried. Then I told her about my husband’s diagnosis of cancer, and we cried together. I watched her pick slowly down one side of a long row. I wondered if her berries were getting washed with tears. She left with half as many berries, sad eyes, and a sweet smile for me.
She came again a few days later. The first thing she asked was about my husband’s test results. She rejoiced to learn he was in remission. Then she went to pick berries. When she was done and ready to carry her berries to the car I put my arm around her slight shoulders and we talked about how much we missed her husband in the berry patch. “It’s been nine months now,” she said, “I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.”
But she’d come to pick strawberries and somehow, though she looked small and lonely, I was encouraged. Someday, if I go to the berry patch alone, and the rows look long, the strawberries will still taste sweet, and picking them will still be a pleasant experience. There will be a towering frame to shadow me, a Presence to crawl down the row beside me.
My God will still come to the strawberry field.