Spring is my wife’s favorite season.
It always has been. It’s when she feels most alive. And this year, in spite of all she’s going through... is no exception.
My favorite season is Christmas... even though it’s not technically a season—it is for me. I start getting ready for it in about October. Joey is that way with springtime. Months before it actually gets here, she’s busy preparing for it.
Back home in Tennessee, she plants a big garden every spring behind our farmhouse. By mid-January each year, she’s ordering seeds online or going to the Farmers Coop to stock-pile some of her favorites. She’ll spend hours looking through catalogs and searching online for just the right ones.
Some seeds she will plant directly in the garden in late March or April, but some she likes to start early, inside the house. In years past, it’s not unusual for me to walk in the house and find our kitchen table completely filled with seed packets, potting soil, and egg cartons... and Joey grinning ear-to-ear, truly in her element.
Joey likes to plant some of the seedlings in clear divided-containers she gets from the store, but her first choice is to use natural containers that the good Lord has provided. So about two weeks ago, she had Jody, Julie and I start saving the shells from our eggs at breakfast each day. Then last week, after she sent us to the store for potting soil, she started her seeds.
We had a pretty good cold spell here in Indiana after that... but then two days ago, the sun broke through the clouds and it almost felt like spring was in the air. And to make it even better, when we woke up yesterday, some of Joey’s seedlings had sprouted... like little arms stretching after a long sleep, the tiny seeds that she had planted had broken through the surface of the soil and sprung to life.
It was a beautiful sight to see. Even our little Indy was in amazement. It was her first time to really see her Mama’s green thumb in action.
As fun as it is to see the seeds coming to life, this isn’t just fun for Joey.
She does it because it’s important to her. Planting a garden and raising food that she can feed her family is part of who Joey is. That doesn’t stop just because you have cancer or are stuck in a bed for months-on-end. Life goes on. And what was important, is still important to her.
I love that about my wife. That, and a million other things.
Joey knows what matters most. From the day I met her, I knew that. She wasn’t like me... where what seemed most important changed from day to day or seemed to shift with what was on my mind or how full my plate was at the time. She knew what was important—what was really important... down in her heart of hearts. And she acted on it.
She still does.
My friend Tim Johnson and I sat down with Joey not long after we were married and wrote out a list with her of a lot of the things that were important to her. That list became a song. Our song. It’s probably the one that we’re most known for. It’s how we ended every episode of our TV show.
When we recorded that song, I think some people in the music industry thought it was too simple-minded, not cutting edge enough. I felt just the opposite. I believed it was a bold statement—a woman singing about feeding her family a home-cooked meal, staying out of debt, or trying to be the best mother she can be. In a culture that seems to scream ‘more, more’ and ‘faster, faster’... I knew Joey wasn’t just singing about what was important to her, she was singing about what’s important to millions of wives and mothers and girls all around the world.
The song didn’t really make any kind of a dent in the Billboard charts, but it made a difference in a lot of lives. It still does.
We made that music video in the early spring of 2010 and of course, Joey’s seedlings are there, on a table close to the window in our kitchen. She’s tending to them with a cup of coffee in her hand.
Now, here we are in Indiana and her seedlings this year are on a ledge in the kitchen window.
They get plenty of sunlight and it won’t be long before she’ll have us transplanting them to larger pots. Her hope is that they will make the trip home with us to Tennessee. Whenever that is. To be planted in our garden, and grow and find their way onto our plates or into jars in our pantry.
I often sit beside her as she talks to me about the garden and tries to teach me the things I will need to know. Like how to tell when the watermelons are ripe and how many weeks apart to stagger planting the sweet corn.
I take notes on my laptop, but I don’t really want to know. Not really. I just want her to be able to be in the garden—this year and twenty more after it. I want her to be able to weed and water and hoe and harvest, and to be able to can and freeze the fruit of her labor and feel the pride that she’s felt in the past at knowing that “these sweet potatoes and beans and tomatoes are from our land”... from her hands.
That’s what I really want.
But still, I sit beside her and smile and listen and take notes. And I will keep the garden going. Joey’s garden.
And I’m sure in time, I will learn to love it too. Because she loved it. And part of her will be with us... in every seed we plant, and every vegetable we harvest... and every bite we take.
It’s morning now. Indiana is up and it’s time for breakfast.
Joey has asked that we keep saving egg-shells. She wants to plant more... enough for her sisters to take home and start plants of their own in their gardens.
It’s hard for me to believe that there will be life after this cold, hard winter... and I think Joey knows that.
So thin and gaunt, and more frail than ever, my wife is sowing her seeds—putting down roots in the soil of our lives and hearts.
Getting us ready for something that we can’t see right now for the tears in our eyes... something she might not even get to see at all.