Winter’s First Snowfall


It snowed for the first time this winter yesterday.  You know it is going to come eventually, but it always comes way too soon, unannounced, unexpected, unwanted.  This dreaded blanket of white, covering up all life that previously had died.  That first snowfall ALWAYS takes me back in time.

It was a typical day on the farm on November 17, 1973.  It was 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning.  Time to get up and head to the barn for my chore duties.  Donning my barn coat, I stepped outside and was greeted by a blanket of pristine white new snow, shimmering under the yard light, the 1st snowfall of the year.  I was excited with this new world before me.  Who knows, there might even be enough snow to fire up the snowmobile and rip some laps around the yard.  🙂 The 1st part of the chores involved milking cows and feeding livestock along with my dad and my older brother.  At 8:00 we’d go back to the farmhouse for a hearty breakfast, which mom would have ready, and after breakfast it was back to the barn to clean out stalls and put down fresh straw for bedding.

At breakfast my dad was anxious to get out plowing a field that he had rented, about 2 miles from home.  With this fresh snowfall, his window of time to get all his fall field work completed was getting much smaller.  I was asked to finish the barn chores, and before dad went out to hook up the plow, he adjusted my hockey goalie equipment.  I had a big game later that afternoon, and I wanted them just right.  After the adjustments, I called out, “They fit great, Thanks Dad!  🙂

With his full day of plowing ahead, my dad would not make my game, but he made arrangements for my sister to drop me off, and he would pick me up after the game.

I was quite surprised when my sister was waiting for me when I exited my team dressing room, after changing out of my goalie equipment. “Where was Dad?”  My sister mentioned that Dad got his tractor stuck while plowing, and he walked to the farmhouse of the property he rented, to phone her to pick me up after my game.  We drove past the field where dad had been plowing on our way home.  The lights of 3 tractors were on in the field, which was surprising, but the biggest surprise was the 15-20 cars parked on the side of the road, many with 4 way flashers on.  What was going on?  I asked my sister, “Should we stop?”, and she mentioned “No, we’ll probably just be in the way”.

As soon as I got in the door at home, there was a knock on the door.  A neighbour lady was there.  She seemed uncomfortable, and almost agitated that I answered the door, and mentioned in a flustered voice that my dad had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital.  She also insisted to speak to my mom in private.

While the neighbour lady went to speak with mom, I quickly changed into my barn clothes.  My dad was very strong, and never sick.  So what, he had a heart attack.  I wanted him to be proud of me, when he got back later that evening to see the chores all completed.  It was only a matter of minutes after I started the chores, that farmer neighbours from our close knit community started arriving.  “Carl, what can I do to help?”, they all seemed to ask. “Wow, this is GREAT”.  Who would have thought, a 15 year old kid, delegating his chore duties to all the other farmers.  But they all REALLY wanted to help.  I figured it out, probably Dad phoned them from the hospital. The chores were done in no time, and the 30 or 40 neighbours, were lingering in small groups, quietly speaking in low voices. It was really strange.  I’d go up to a group and ask, “Does anyone know how Dad is, I hear he had a heart attack?”.  No one would look me in the eye.  Everyone was uncomfortable, eyes would be shifting, or looking at the floor. From group, to group I would go.  Yes, I would get answers, “We don’t know, or your dad will be fine.”  Or completely trying to change the topic, “How’s your hockey going Carl? I bet you are a great goalie”.

I couldn’t take it anymore, becoming more and more uneasy, I NEEDED to know.  Without saying goodbye, or thank you for the help, I got out of that barn as quickly as I could and raced for the house. The entire yard was packed with cars and trucks.  My mom must have been waiting for me by the window, because she met me immediately at the door.  Trying to catch my breath after a full out sprint between the barn and house, I blurted out, “How’s Dad?”  Mom burst into tears as she cried out, “Did NO one tell you?”  My mind went spinning, but I knew, “Please NO, it can’t be?”, as I raced back into the night.  I could hear mom calling after me, “CARL……. CARL……. CARL”, but I HAD to get away. I ran and ran and ran until I could run no more.  The snow that I was so excited to see just hours before, was defeating me.  It was so very difficult running through, and exhausted I eventually slumped down onto the cold, wet, snowy ground.  The floodgates opened and the tears flowed freely.

I needed that place to cry alone SO badly. After some time, thinking Mom would be worried for me, I headed back.  The house was packed with SO many people.  Trying to make myself as “invisible” around everyone as possible, I eventually found Mom while in a conversation.  Yes, she was concerned, but she knew I needed time alone, she did not send anyone out to go looking for me.  She knew when I was ready, I WOULD come back.

The next few days were tough on this 15 year old, who just lost his father.  Over 2 days, and 3 visitation times, many, many hundreds of people filed by to pay their respects for my father.  The funeral was packed to overflowing, every room filled, and then even people were standing outside in the cold November air. The funeral parlour had never seen such a huge funeral for “just a simple farmer.”  This simple farmer, with a grade 7 education was my dad, and I miss him so much.  Four days after living on this earth for 47 years, my dad’s lifeless body was laid to rest.  In a peaceful, rural cemetery, with winter’s 1st snowfall still on the ground.  That 1st snowfall of the winter that covers life that had previously died.  That 1st snowfall that ALWAYS takes me back in time.

First winter snowfall. Looking back onto the field from behind our house.

First winter snowfall. Looking back onto the field from behind our house.

(The Rest of the Story)  When my dad got his tractor stuck, he phoned a neighbour to pull him out.  That is when he also phoned my sister to pick me up after the hockey game.  The 2nd tractor got stuck trying to pull the 1st tractor out.  When a 3rd tractor got hooked up to try and pull tractor 1 and 2 out, was when my dad had his heart attack. All of this commotion got him worked up too much.  The autopsy revealed it was a “massive heart attack”.   When dad collapsed on that cold, snowy ground, he probably would have been already dead , when he hit the ground.

Family photo about 5 years before dad died. (I am the boy in black shirt). My mom was a widow for over 40 years. She never remarried, she never dated. In fact in all my years, I never saw her without her wedding ring off. That is love.

Family photo about 5 years before dad died. (I am the boy in black shirt).
My mom was a widow for over 40 years, until she died. She never remarried, she never dated again….ever.   In fact in all my years, I never, ever saw her without her wedding ring off. That is love.  ❤

Categories: FamilyTags: , , , ,

27 comments

  1. Thanks for writing – always grips my heart hearing what your Mum, you. Linda and Allan went through when life was cut short. Your Dad’s legacy lives on through your life, your siblings and his grandchildren and great grand children. He would be proud.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I actually felt like I was there with you as you told this story. Your love and bond with your father is so apparent. The first snow- so bitter sweet. The photo is beautiful, lonely, calm, love.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carl,
    I just got this in my email. I was in tears through this story. I so know how things like this can take you back every year. I am so glad I said that to you yesterday. I mean it everyday. You have great worth. I am only sorry that your wonderful Father is not here to say it to you. He is though, through the wonderful person he raised, and how he lives on through you, and what you give to others and receive in return.
    I feel so for that fifteen year old boy in the snow that day. And that every first fallen snow, he is still there. I so hope that pain has lessened a little today. Knowing you are so loved by your father, and your wonderful family, and so many others. Thank you for sharing your wonderful Father’s love and this story.
    I saw a quote today….Grief is the greatest gift we have left to give someone, because where there is great grief, there was deep love…..It struck me as very beautiful and true. I don’t know why I saw it tonight. It had great meaning to me, so I thought i would share it.
    Many loving thoughts to you Carl.
    Your friend,
    CC

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for such a beautiful response. I know if anyone would understand that something as simple as a 1st snowfall would take a person back to a day in time, it would be you.

      The pain is lessened today….thank you! 🙂 My memories are positive memories, and I feel for you. It did my heart good watching my children playing and rolling around in the snow (not kids anymore though, 20, 17 and 16). If my 22 year old wasn’t in university, she would have been rolling around as well. 🙂
      Absolutely LOVE this quote. There is so much truth tucked into those words.

      Hoping your day is a really good one,

      ~Carl~ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That is so young to lose your father and I imagine the first snow is such a bittersweet reminder. At least it is a time to reflect and remember all the good. Beth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Beth, and I appreciate what you shared. It IS a time to reflect and remember all the good.

      The post automatically went to my personal Facebook page. People who knew my dad were commenting memories, and remembering the day he died like it was yesterday (but it was 41 years ago). Things I never knew, and the impact he left to so many. Love and cherish those comments! 🙂

      Thank you for reading, and your most appreciated comment! 🙂

      Like

  5. Carl…thanks for sharing this part of your story. The story and the picture of snowfall are the same: beautiful, yet wistful.
    How wonderful that you called out “Thanks Dad!” as you left that day!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carl, you almost brought me tears. I cannot even imagine how difficult it must have been for that 15 year old to cope up with such a huge loss. Stay strong like you did for all these years and gain strength from that love.
    Hope you are okay and hope you have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely post. You had me dewy-eyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh Carl! That is so heartwrenching. Why do so many people believe we need to shield the children from death?
    My heart is breaking all over again for your 15 year old self and the tears are in my eyes. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a parent.
    I wish you sweet memories of your father. I’m sure he would be so proud of the person you have become today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Suzanne. Your caring comment is very precious to me.
      It was definitely the most difficult day I have ever experienced, but I do have wonderful memories.
      I was privileged to have a GREAT father for 15 years. Some children might grow up to adulthood, and would never have experienced ever what a great or good father is like.
      I am very fortunate. 🙂

      Like

  9. Such a story. Words fail me…. Nothing like a good cry in the morning!! It sounds like such a lovely family, and such a hard day. I can’t imagine going through all of that, though I know we all must say good-bye to our dads eventually. : ( Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. April, you have a very tender, caring heart. Thank you for reading, and your wonderful comment. I know my own children would have absolutely LOVED my dad, I don’t understand why these things happen, but simply trust in the Lord for His faithfulness. Thank you for caring.
    ~Carl~.

    Like

  11. Carl, the tears are still running down my face. I was so captured by your words, so beautifully written, that I literally forgot I was reading, but rather I felt like I was watching a movie unfold in front of me. You have painted such an incredible picture of the events of that day, it will allow anyone reading this tribute to your father, to feel as though they knew him, and even more so the 15 year old, Carl. I can’t for the life of me imagine the feelings that must tug at your heart every year with winter’s first snow fall, my guess is that it would be quite bittersweet. Thank you for sharing this part of you with us, a lovely gift.

    Always warm wishes,
    Pepperanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pepperanne….THANK YOU!!!

      It is an real honor to have you drop by, and for leaving with me your very caring comment, this means a lot.

      You are absolutely correct my dear friend, that 1st snowfall is always bittersweet. Love winter activities in the snow like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and when I have the time, even sleeping in the snow, by building what is known as a quinzee. 🙂

      Every year I “think” I am mentally prepared for winter’s 1st snowfall, but “whammo”, hits me, and floods me with memories every time. However, it much better to miss my dad, than not to miss my dad. Very fortunate for those 15 years. 🙂

      Sincerely wishing you a wonderful weekend!

      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I just started following you but felt compelled to comment. Your post was so moving-just ask the tears in my eyes :). I lost my mother when I was 19 (she was 52). My bittersweet symbol of that day is a rainbow. Just after the ambulance took her body away, I walked outside to be alone, and there was a rainbow breaking through the dawn of the morning light. I’ll always believe that was her way of saying goodbye to me. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kim, I am really glad that you did share. Your mom was young to leave this earth, and you were so young to lose your mother. I am very sorry, and I can identify with your loss. You will always have the memory of that rainbow to help you remember her saying goodbye. You described it beautifully, and I can picture you walking outside, and there the rainbow was, breaking through the dawn.
      Thank you for the follow, and thank you so much for sharing this.
      ~Carl~

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I couldn’t get through this without teary eyes. I kept thinking how hard it must have been losing your father, not only before those important years (when you probably needed him the most) but also, in such tragic way. In a matter of minutes your family’s life turned upside down. A truly sad story which breaks my heart. Thank you for sharing such a private time in your life.

    Life can seem cruel sometimes. I always felt for my mum. Like your mum, she has never taken her wedding ring off, nor has she looked at another man. My dad was her everything and that is indeed, true love!

    Liked by 1 person

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