I know the agony of writing about a departed loved one and was so very touched when Joyce Wetherell sent me the tribute written about her husband, Ross, who died on Aug. 8. She did something I would never be able to do - she read the eulogy at her husband's funeral.
Joyce mentioned that I had written in a past column that memories are special, and she wanted to share memories of Ross with me.
"Memories help you to stay sane when everything about you is in turmoil. Memories are everything," she wrote.
I would like to share some of her eulogy.
It takes a special man to be a farmer. In what other profession do you work 18-hour days; believe you can plant tiny seeds and harvest a field of corn; put hay in the mouth of a cow and have milk come out through the udder; and have the faith that this year will be the one without a drought, gully washing rain, wind that will flatten the oats field the day before harvesting or deer eat your corn crop?
A farmer is a man who works those 18 hours, reinvests everything he has back into that farm and wakes each morning to do it again. And if he is a dairy farmer, it is a 365-day-a-year job. And one more day gets added every four years.
He was born to farm. God knew he needed to have extra patience, a love of the land and the strength to endure the struggles of everyday life. God blessed us with our own farmer - Ross.
As the seasons of life changed and the wheels of the tractors turned, Ross was carried - no, he drove through life - a quiet man on a noisy, green machine. His "bucket list" wasn't a wish list of things to be accomplished before death, but rather a list he might have in his pocket as he headed to Landmark - a feed bucket and a new water bucket, too. Buckets ... you get the picture?
The tractor wheels have made many rounds through the fields of life. Ross was born into farming and loved and respected the kind of man his dad, Floyd, was. His heart was full of love for his mom, Clarice.
The tractor tires churned through Little League years and teen years, where school wasn't his thing. Who needed English to farm? And gym was okay, but he got more out of pitching hay and cleaning the barn stalls.
Soon the tractor carried him through high school, and it was graduation. There were no graduation parties for him. He wanted to get his diploma and get home and to bed as he had cows to milk and hay to mow in the morning.
His brothers left the farm, and Ross stayed to do the one thing he loved - farm. Ross met Joyce in 1972, and dates were spent at car races, movies and the Jamboree. He spent many Sunday nights taking her back to West Liberty for her junior year of college.
They became engaged, but Ross wanted to make sure she knew what being a farm wife meant. Money would be tight, nights could be lonely if there was a sick cow or the electricity went out. But true love can accept these minor inconveniences. They were married for 38 1/2 happy years.
The children, Ross Jr. and Duayne, were born, and he spent every spare minute with them. He worked hard to get the chores done so he could go to football and baseball games, wrestling matches and band concerts. This was important to him. He passed on a strong work ethic, a love of family and a joy for life to his sons.
Both sons got married. Ross Jr. to Carrie and Duayne to Monica. Ross became a Pap-pap for the first time when D.J. was born to Duayne and Monica. Then Andrew, his little farmer, and then Delia, his cutie and sweetheart came along.
The tractor wheels slowed; the rounds became shorter. There were tears over health issues that came on suddenly in what he knew would be an early death.
He cried for the things he would miss in the lives of the people he loved. Joyce cried for the emptiness she would feel without Ross in her life. But laughter was there, too. They laughed at the good memories in reminiscing over so many happenings. He was proud of his sons and remarked he must have done something right to have them turn out so well. Thoughts of the three grandchildren made him smile.
He was thankful for the last day at home, to see the farm and to watch the grandchildren play. Their hugs were a special medicine that couldn't be delivered by an IV or a shot. He talked of friends and family who came to visit.
The wheels of the tractor turned slower and slower. He was running out of diesel fuel. There was never anyone he met who didn't like Ross. He tried to see things in a good light and accepted people for who they were.
Though doctors and nurses called him a miracle, tough guy, a rare bird and a sweetheart, it became evident that God needed another good farmer. Ross has joined his dad to plow the fields of heaven and reap the rewards of the harvest. As Ross stepped into heaven, the tractor has stopped here on Earth. The rounds are completed. Life's field is now plowed. The farmer peacefully rests, and the tractor cries.
I want to say that this kind of writing cannot be made up. It has to be lived. I know how Joyce was by his bedside each and every day. But she had her Liberty Gals and Guys 4-H Club stay active and continue on at the Jefferson County Fair that started just days after the funeral.
They decorated a 4-H booth, made a float and the members carried on just for Joyce and Ross.
Some other deaths that have touched me deeply this past week have been that of Hilda Benton, Aunt Hilda as Mary Emery called her, and I picked up on that, too. That lady could bake up a tray of assorted cookies, nut rolls and cream horns in the blink of an eye. She was very active up through her 80s and truly loved life.
Nately Ronsheim was another lady who did so much through her lifetime. I met her when she was the director of the Harrison Cottage Industries in Cadiz. The group purchased a house, renovated and decorated it to display and sell all the crafts of the county and counties beyond. There would be luncheons to promote and show off the many crafts, and she was behind all of it.
Lois Ramsey was gone too soon. That lady was deeply involved with the Bits and Pieces 4-H Club and Girls Scouts. She helped her husband, Jim, with the camping details at the Jefferson County Fair.
I know so many members of the Ramsey family and want to extend my sympathy to all.
God's spirit shines through these four wonderful people. They will live on in all they have done.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is a staff writer and food editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)