And suddenly, it’s Epiphany.

My enthusiasm for the Christmas season was limited, so the Three Wise Guys (and all the rest of the Little People Nativity sets (all three of ’em)) didn’t make an appearance. Same with the Polar Express train.

And wow, how things have changed.

Today, the kids went back to school after a slightly extended Christmas break — extended by a day on the front end by a reward day off for good testing scores, and extended by two hours on the back end by a reward late start for food bank donations.

Normally, Jeremy and I are far past ready for the kids to go back to school. This house is small. With the new wall to divide the living room and create a new bedroom out of the play sector, the public spaces are even smaller — but the children are not smaller, and the flow of hormones is increasingly a factor.

Pretty sure Jeremy is still very ready for school to be in session. Somehow, though, I’ve got mixed emotions. It’s been a busy couple weeks, but we have done some out-of-the-ordinary things that I don’t mind doing with the kids, and I feel like I could do some more of that.

We got a pasture cedar for our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, which is pretty much one of my favorite things of the whole year.

The target tree.

We went to Menards as a group of seven, which I can tell you is a bit of a butterfly-herding party when the mean parents haven’t yet seen fit to supply phones to the children and thus require them to remain nearby.

We also went to the library, one of my favorite places on the planet, and thus have a mere 46 items checked out. This is about 20 percent less than usual. I think I have figured out who has made our oldest child say he hates reading, and if that proves to be true, I might be furious, but I’m not sure how to resolve it. Among other things, I don’t think he actually hates reading, but he definitely is in a snit.

The older kids are getting to an awfully-darn-capable stage, which I appreciate. August committed to helping a neighbor family with their animals while they traveled in exchange for some not-quite-legal driving practice. I’m not yet enthused about him driving on his own … for good reasons. If we can get double the 50 hours of supervised driving practice mandated for 14-year-old permittees, I think it’s probably well worth our time.

August and Ivy and I went to Target and the mall to fill some pantry and wardrobe gaps. I do not do this reindeer game. I was overlooked when God passed out fruits of the Spirit, and my patience is basically nil, so shopping with kids is something I avoid at all costs. But this trip turned out to be pretty entertaining, overall, and specifically dragging August through the bra sections in three different stores. (Jeremy referred to bras as “over-the-shoulder boulder holders” the other day and the kids universally think that is completely hilarious.) Plus, I am always glad to forgo a bulky, often wheel-malfunctioning cart in favor of human beasts of burden (see above re. patience and lack thereof).

I’m on the community fund advisory board, and mixed up in all this family holiday stuff came the news that we hit our challenge grant goal by, lo, the very skin of our teeth. It’ll be my job to write the press release that announces this great joy and to give the date for the celebration.

All that brings us to Epiphany, also known as the first day of school for 2022, and also the day when Jenna and I get to go to church and Jeremy gets to take the others to shooting sports practice. I think it’s all because of “We Three Kings” and its lovely richness that I like Epiphany best of all the days in the church year.

This photo was taken on Epiphany in 2019, a great day,
and in light of a huge chunk of recent stupidity, also a bit bittersweet.

Today’s the last day of our Christmas tree and the last day of the church’s Christmas decorations as well.

In age order clockwise from the top — August, Ivy, Sadie, Raina, Jenna — with photos from their actual first Christmas Days.

So, back to how things have changed.

In October, my brother Brad was run over by a truck in a freak accident, and a week later he died, and a week after that we had a funeral, and freaking life is just not the freaking same.

It will never be the same.

Brad was such an incredible human, not just as the child of my parents and the brother of me and my sisters and the husband of Lauren and the father of Lovelle and Baby Boy. He was a friend to just about every harvester, every person in ag in seven or eight states, all the people on Ag Twitter, basically the entire world.

The high-emotion day, my mom’s birthday, when they found out that Baby is a boy.

Some minutes are so hard. Like I about cannot see the screen while typing this. Like Sunday in church all of a sudden in the middle of “Midnight Clear” I had to walk back to ostensibly get more Kleenex, even though they’re fake Kleenex and not really worth having. Like there’s this massive black emptiness just off my right shoulder and it just follows me around.

And as hard as it is for me, it’s about a zillion-zillion times worse for Lauren and Lovelle, and Mom and Dad and Tara, who saw him every single day. I’ve been gone from home for 24 years and married for 19 years and, well, that changes the situation for me.

I thought it was incredible how many people came to his funeral. How surreal, to talk about my brother’s funeral. But that’s how it is. I got to see people I dearly love. And the outpouring of gifts for Lauren and Lovelle and Baby’s future has been astonishing.

(If you want to see photos of our family and Brad’s friends, the amazing Jody-and-Mindy sister-team of Jody Rael Photography brought cameras. You can scroll through them at this link by entering your email address and using the password bradheil. If you want to download images and save or print them, go right ahead. Jody has graciously provided them at full size. Recommend for great results.)

I don’t know if I can write about that any more at the moment so I will be moving on to my last topic now, which is:

This Prairie Life hasn’t exactly worked like I hoped it would.

It took me a hot minute or six months to concede that.

Now, it’s fine. I feel my point of view changing on the daily and I suppose I have my brother to thank for that. Importance is relative.

I had this concern that I would be able to only persist with a website (I do not love the word blog, but I suppose it’s in that category, really) for just a short amount of time, and then I would lose interest. That’s why I semi-recruited, semi-offered this space to my friends to also write. But, I wanted it to be sort of self-perpetuating, because badgering people to get stuff done is not one of my favorite things.

Needless to say, it hasn’t quite worked out the way I envisioned. Or perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling self-doubt prophecy. I’m not sure.

I suppose in the coming weeks and months I’ll work to revise my plans and ideas, maybe even work to revise the site itself, and figure out what’s next.

In the meantime, I send Epiphany blessings out to everyone. Keep warm and give thanks for the ancestors who planted your windbreak.


6 thoughts on “And suddenly, it’s Epiphany.

  1. It’s a small world…I’ve been following you but never realized Brad Heil was your brother.

    My husband was a farmer and tragically passed away September 17. He was an “AgTalk” poster and encouraged me to read along with him. Since his passing I’ve continued to check in on the AgTalk forum (it somehow in some weird way made me feel close to him) and my heart broke again to read of Brad and his family.

    My heart goes out to his wife and your family. There were many beautiful tributes to him.


  2. I think of Brad and you and family daily. I do understand the emptiness in a different way, but there is no way to truly feel his loss the way you do. On a different note, I love reading your Prairie Life. I actually forgot about the friend writing part of it. I’m not really on the prairie anymore, although I love it and miss it so much. Thank you for sharing Brad’s service photos; we hope they are a blessing and something for others to treasure and to connect with the good friends that Brad has. Thank you so much for the nuggets of real life in your post. Don’t stop! It’s beautiful. And you never know where it will lead.


  3. I love reading your words as they are so honest and eloquent. Thinking about you all, all the time. Much love.


  4. Hello Karen. It’s been ?24 years since I’ve seen you? Love your non-blog. Your family has definitely been in my thoughts and prayers. I would absolutely love to give your mom a hug. Keep writing girl


  5. This is beautifully written, Karen. Such in-depth thinking in a situation that seems so unreal. You have a gift that you share with so many. I do think of you, your family and Brad’s family often. All of you have my continued prayers.


  6. Oh no. I came over from TFG when I saw your blog link. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen you commenting anywhere, and hoping it wasn’t anything too terrible and . . . it is. I am so, so sorry, and will keep you and your whole family in my prayers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s