27 April

Ed And Carol, Thursday – “I’m Suffering”

by Jon Katz


Ed and Carol, Thursday

Ed understands what I have learned in my hospice and therapy work.

Serious illness and death is often harder for the healthy and the left behind.

Carol has devoted her life to the man she calls “my farmer,” she is fiercely loyal to Ed and their family.  Life without Ed would be profound. She continues to amaze me with her powerful and authentic writing. Everything is a gift.

I tell my class almost every week that real writers must be authentic and show their vulnerability, but very few people can do it. Most people are terrified of sharing their weakness.

The two of them have made it a mission to chronicle the next chapter of their lives, they are buying a new laptop and also I am recommending some voice recognition software. I’m recommending an Apple MacBook Pro.

Carol and i will go and purchase it together. I’m still researching the best voice recognition programs.

My mission, with their permission, is to chronicle Ed’s journey in photographs and words.

They are planning to blog every day, for as long as Ed can, and beyond. They have found a purpose in the pain – to help other people by sharing their experience fully and honest. He wants me to come to Montana with them, but I said that is not possible really, I’m not a big rodeo guy.

I might come along to Maryland with him when he goes to pick up his giant wooden gorilla, who he wishes to bring back to Bejosh Farm so he can sit out with him in the morning while he shouts “I’m Still Here!”

Carol is plenty tough, but this reality is very new, and she doesn’t embrace fate in the way Ed does.

His heart is breaking.  “…today,” she wrote on her blog, ” the dread seems to be sneaking in and taking over.  My farmer is taking all of this with grace and a courage that I have never seen  in him before. He is calm and collected, so to speak…as much as someone in his position can be…”

Carol added “I ask the good Lord to watch over my Farmer and me  in the coming days and months. Keep us in your care and guide us (me) to acceptance in what is ahead…I am struggling.”

I was relieved to see Carol write those words, it is very necessary for her to acknowledge those feelings. Ed knows how to cry when he needs to, he is full of emotion.

Carol told me Ed feels calm in our farmhouse, and they came over to share some pizza with us last night.

Ed was in good and  strong spirits, Carol look exhausted but steady. I can see the pain and sorrow in her eyes.

The news they received Saturday – that Ed has inoperable tumors in his brain – was the last thing Carol expected to hear. I don’t think Ed was as surprised, he knows  his body as well as he knows his cows.

Ed’s daughter had taken him to a beauty parlor to get his hair trimmed yesterday, to shed the big bear and Mountain Man look.

“My God,” I said, “you are even uglier than  you were yesterday.” We had fun with his clean-cut and bald look, I said he looked like a giant Easter egg. He told me Carol was writing faster than I was and just as well. This is true.

It was my turn to be taken aback when Ed asked Maria and I how we were handling the news. I don’t think anyone has asked me that, and I was touched again by Ed’s thoughtfulness. “I was crying all day,” Maria said.

I said I was also taking it hard. I’ve seen a lot of sickness and death in recent years. But not with anyone this close to me. I am working to get a handle on it. Writing is never hard for me, but writing about Ed now is hard for me.

I told Maria that it just hit me that one day we could no longer just drop over to Bejosh Farm, drink some coffee – farm people always make you eat something – and see Ed stalking around in his camouflage shirts and pants, pulling a calf out of a cow or banging away on his latest sculpture. I can’t imagine anyone else to call when a bear comes into our pasture and dies.

The evening was lovely, as all of our time with Ed and Carol is. Ed is not into self-pity or indecision. He is very clear on not wanting extreme treatments, he is very eager to hit the road, a family member is loaning them an RV for their trek to Montana. He has invited the world to come along.

Next Tuesday will be a monumental day in Ed’s life and the life of any dairy farmer, he is selling his dairy cows, keeping some Swiss Steers. A 65 year old chapter of the farm is ending, but the farm will continue. Ed’s oldest son Chad is running the farm now with the help of his sister Maggie and brother Jess. The younger cows are leaving but Ed’s beloved Brown Swiss are remaining.

The family intends to keep the farm operating.

When a dairy farmer sells his cows, his farm life is over. Ed is resolute and clear about how he wishes to spend his time. It will not be in a hospital getting surgery or chemo.

He says he plans to make a video every day and post it on their blog. This is a good move. Somewhere inside of Ed – or maybe also on the outside – is a performer. He loves an audience. And he loves to tell stories.

And to add to that mix, he has a strong creative ego. He believes his story is important and he wants to tell it. He is not one of those people who says nobody will care about what they write. He believes everyone will care. He has a very powerful story to tell. There is no false modesty, or for that matter, any modesty.

He and Carol received more than 1,700 messages yesterday from people all over the world when they learned of his tumors,

He soaks up attention, and that will comfort and inspire him.

All of his life, the creative part of him has been suppressed or ignored, and now, in this painful way,  it is coming out in many different ways, and is being recognized. This is our true connection to him, I believe, we want the same things he wants.

We’ve offered Carol and Ed our farmhouse anytime he needs calm or quiet. He loved that idea. After reading my blog yesterday Ali called me up and said he told the refugee boys about Ed’s illness – they visited the farm a few months ago – and they want to come and see him next Saturday at Bejosh Farm.

I love these kids for wanting to do that.

Ed  said he would be delighted to see them again, and have them visit.



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