I still remember the last conversation I had with my dad. It took place on a Saturday. A few days before the accident. We were talking about farming or the weather or something like that. He mentioned that he helped rescue his boss. Although retired my dad continued to work. His boss while moving some sheep upended the four-wheeler he was driving. The four-wheeler reared up and came down on top of him. He was trapped. My dad heard his cries for help and raced to see what had happened. My dad with little concern for his own well-being helped move the four-wheeler enough to let his boss escape. This was my dad for you.
My dad would have turned 74 this August. He was born in the years following WWII on a small farm in Broadway. Small farms in those days had a few cows, chickens, hogs, and a big garden. Most of what the family ate was grown on the farm. The rest was sold to neighbors or brought to town to be sold. This was a tough life. Sometimes mom and dad needed to work off the farm to make ends meet. Tractors and implements helped reduce the physical labor needed on the farm. But there was plenty to do. Milking cows, gathering eggs, sowing crops. Hay was still put up by hand and many of these tasks were done with the help of neighbors.
My dad was injured in a farming accident in February of 2023. He was doing what he did everyday in the winter months. He was feeding a round bale of hay to the cows. After cutting the strings and preparing to unroll the bale of hay he lost his footing and fell on his back. He suffered a severe injury to his spine that required emergency surgery to relieve the pressure and save his life. We did not know at the time how severe it was. In the weeks that followed we mourned that our dad would not walk again while remaining hopeful that he would get to come home. The surgery left my dad unable to talk and the medicine caused him to be asleep most of the time. The three weeks between the accident and when he succumbed to his injuries was an emotional hurricane. Tears were easy to come during those days.
The moment finally came on a Saturday evening that we had dreaded. The decision needed to be made to take our dad off life support. His heart had stopped earlier that day and the doctors were keeping him alive by artificial means. The family gathered and with the advice of the doctors decided to stop giving lifesaving care. We were with our dad in the room during those last few hours of his life. It was both a harrowing and sacred experience to be in the room with someone when they take their last breath. The grief I felt in that moment was overwhelming. The tears streamed and my body shook with emotion. My dad was gone.
The days that followed were filled with family and friends gathering to remember the life of Allen (Tommy) Williams. We sorted through photographs. Traded stories. Ate an extra bowl of ice cream in his honor. We dusted off his FFA jacket from high school and were amazed at how small it was compared to the presence he had in our lives. My life is haunted by ghosts these days. Opening the barn door. Walking into the living room. Checking on the cows. The ghost of my dad is everywhere. Learning to live with these ghosts is difficult. I am reminded of a Jewish prayer during these difficult times, “As long as we live, they too will live; for now they are a part of us; as we remember them.”