love in the shape of a red balloon

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.

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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.



17 comments on “love in the shape of a red balloon

  1. Mom says:

    Tracy…I love you so much !!!!! You are an “Angel”..a person regarded as beautiful,and good..
    a messenger of God…on my prayer reading flip calendar like yours that I gave you. today’s
    message: ….. Father, keep my heart soft this day and fill it with Your thoughts. Amen…….
    I will wonder as well if maybe his family will contact you? sending my love..I worked Two hours over time tonight..10 hour day….probably the same tomorrow…..on my way to…


  2. Linda says:

    Tracy, as always so beautifully written. You have such a warm heart and such feeling in your story. It makes us all stop and pray for this family. You are so beautiful inside and out. I am going to miss you so much.

    • Nebraska Wheatie says:

      Oh Linda…
      You haven’t even got a clue how much I will miss you! Thank you for the nice comments. You mean the world to me! All of you!!

  3. Tracy? I don’t know you, but I’m Tyler Crawford’s older sister. Oh my gosh. This is beautiful. My mom found this and sent it to me. What are the odds? I cannot believe it! You wrote such a beautiful article. I cannot explain how much this article means to me.
    My brother didn’t go out much. He went to work, did karate, and went home. That was his passion….so that was his life. I never could have imagined how many lives he touched. I didn’t know, until he died. That week, I learned so much about him. So much that I wish I had known sooner. He didn’t just go to work, he impacted every customer’s life with his smile and kind words. And now, he’s touched your life too. He’s gone, but he is still “paying it forward.” We said at his service that, to him, the concept of paying it forward was just how he lived. My sister (or older sister) said it even better, he was labeled with a”disability” and yet,he lived the most fulfilling…most memorable…life. A life with more impact than you can imagine.
    When I read this article, at first, I was confused…then I thought to myself “great. We picked red balloons…was that more common than anticipated?” Oh….but then I kept on…. this article was about MY BABY BROTHER! Oh wow. I stated sobbing. I couldn’t believe it. My baby brother. He did it again. Shocked me.ever since that day, I’ve wondered….where did those balloons go? Which way? Who found one? What did they do? Throw it away? Google his name? I would NOT have even thought an entire article would be written. And so beautifully?
    Thank you. Thank you for continuIng this beauty. Thank you for saying his name again. Thank you for all of this. Thank you.
    Will I think of SO much more to say after this, oh definitely. I couldn’t possibly think of everything in one night. This is beautiful. Thank you.

    Tyler’s big sister,

  4. Shelby Nelson says:

    My husband and I read this and I of course teared up. We are neighbors of Tyler’s and knew him and his parents very well. It is so nice to see that Tyler is still touching peoples lives even after his passing. If you knew him you would know that that is Tyler. Always touching people and putting a smile every face of every person he talked to. Thank you for sharing this in such a touching way.

  5. kwhalen says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. I discovered your post on a relative’s Facebook page. TJ was one of my cousin’s children. Although I hadn’t seen him since he was a young boy, everyone in his family was shocked and deeply saddened by his sudden passing. It seems that TJ had a big heart and brought a smile to everyone that he met. I can see that he even touched you through this random discovery you made in a Colorado field. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Marci says:

    My brother was the sweetest soul on the planet. He loved unconditionally and without limits. It has blessed our family so much to see these words. To see his story being shared. To see even though you didn’t know him personally, it still affected you. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for stopping. Most of all, thank you for the much needed prayers. He was a beautiful person, and deserves to be celebrated.. and I can’t wait to see him again someday. God bless.

  7. Matt Kamtz says:

    Tracy, This is absolutely beautiful and we appreciate you posting this and reaching out to the Crawford family. Jay and Robin are neighbors of ours and Jay is my business partner. Your words were so eloquent and we all can’t thank you enough. Tyler was an amazing soul that always saw the best in people and never had a frown on his face.He greeted anyone and everyone that crossed his path no matter what walk of life they may have came from. He loved kid and would always have pennies in his pocket at work at the local King Soopers so the kids could ride the mechanical horse. The fact that you found those balloons and you have this amazing forum is a testament to Tyler’s spirit! He always had an amzing way of reaching out and making everyone’s day better. Thank you again for sharing and I hope someday our paths cross!

  8. Robin Compton says:

    Tracy I am Tyler Girlfriend Jasmines mom and this is beautiful , Tyler was a very kind, sweet loving young man who did go out of his way to make everyone smile and he loved all without fault . I still pray everyday for his family he wassuch a beautiful soul

  9. Jasmine Compton says:

    I am Tyler girlfriend for 9 year
    We miss you
    We love you
    We never forget
    You alway in my heart
    You alway have a place in my heart
    I see you one day
    I love you so much
    I miss you so much

  10. You have me in tears Tracy! What a beautiful thing this is and what a beautiful individual Tyler was.

  11. […] NEBRASKA WHEATIE – Love in the Shape of a Red Balloon […]

  12. I loved this post and it really touched me, so I highlighted it as one of my blue ribbon winners for the October Country Fair Blog Party: I hope you link up again!

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