Throughout my many days of sitting behind the steering wheel of a combine, you see lots of “things” in the field…old machinery parts, oil buckets, seed bags, dead animals, deer antlers, swimming pools and even kids’ outdoor toys. Most of the machinery parts were lost during the working of the ground or planting of the crop. The rest can be attributed to the wind – except for the dead animals, of course.
I’ve seen a number of helium balloons. Some fields and locations within our harvest journey seem to collect more than usual. It’s almost as if those locations are on some sort of helium balloon jet stream. In my mind, I imagine that after balloons have been set free from the hands who have held them, they make their way into this helium balloon jet stream which carries them as far as it will allow. Then, the balloon that had been gracefully floating through the sky, hits some sort of cloud wall or turbulence, tumbles back to earth and lands in a field.
The fields we cut in Eastern Colorado must be in the direct balloons-falling-back-to-earth path. I used to get excited when I first saw a balloon here or there (I don’t know why). Sometimes I would stop to see what sort of celebration might have been happening at the time the balloon was allowed to enter the balloon jet stream. Birthdays and congratulations seem to make the top of the list.
On one particular September afternoon, while rolling through the millet field, a bouquet of red balloons caught my eye. “Interesting!”, I thought. “This is something you don’t see as often as the typical mylar balloon”. I kept going. Something entered my head, though, that made me back up, stop and get out of the Beast. I wanted to see what it was that made this find so different from the others.
I quickly climbed down the ladder. I always feel like I don’t have time to do much when I stop the combine. Especially while I’m working with others. They are counting on me and the Beast to keep moving so I feel like I shouldn’t take more time than necessary. Now I wish I had taken a picture of the entire bouquet of red balloons. Each balloon had a note attached to the end of the ribbon.
I quickly snatched one of the notes and put the Beast back in motion.
As I sat in the seat of that combine, my heart ached for the person who so lovingly tied this note to the end of a balloon, gathered the bouquet and set it free. Tyler wasn’t much older than Taylor. Such a short-lived life and I wondered. I wondered what had happened, I wondered where Tyler was from and I immediately prayed for his family. I simply couldn’t imagine the pain his family must be going through at that very moment.
And then I did something else. I posted this very same picture on the Zeorian Harvesting & Trucking Facebook page just to see what would happen. Social media is an amazing tool. I immediately received comments from people all over the country who had either seen something on Facebook about Tyler or sent me a copy of Tyler’s obituary. The balloons and the celebration of Tyler’s life had taken place two days earlier and nearly 150 miles away.
The red balloons and piece of paper now had a face and a story.
At least two days earlier, someone, who dearly loved Tyler, carefully tied the note I had so quickly snatched from the balloon. I have no face to put with this person. In my mind, I’m looking over the shoulder of someone who loved Tyler and watching them tie the note to the balloon. I can see them gathering a handful of the balloons, passing them to other people who also loved Tyler and then setting them free – all at the same time.
God placed me in that particular spot at that particular time. It could have easily been one of the other combines to have passed that balloon landing and the story might not have been told. Why me? What made me go backwards to that very spot and retrieve the piece of paper? I will probably never meet Tyler’s family. They are completely unknown to me and yet my heart hurts for them.
“Tyler, you are so loved. You had a heart of gold and you were a light in all of our lives. Words cannot describe our feeling of loss, but know that we love you and will never forget you.
“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Maybe I feel a connection because of my own children. I can’t imagine having to go through what his family is going through – trying to figure out their new “normal”. The only thing that would/could get me through something as painful as this would be the knowledge that I would see him again one day. God says so.
“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22
Whatever the reason, whatever the connection, whatever the ache…this was placed on my heart for a reason. Maybe it was simply to see love in the shape of a red balloon. And to pray for a family I don’t even know.