Without a Sound, Our World Was Ripped Apart

Christel Mehlhouse

In two days, it would have been our wedding anniversary. In less than a month, it will have been a year since Pete was killed. That hardly seems possible. It is both just a heartbeat away and eons ago. Part of me still doesn't understand it all. But then, I'm not starting at the beginning.

We were cattle farmers, and that meant chores twice a day, every day. It required a real commitment and a lot of sacrifice, but we were both prepared to do that in exchange for the chance at success and independence. That Saturday morning Pete went out the door at 7:15 just like every other day, after having given kisses and hugs to our daughters Tracey(5) and Annie(3) and to myself. I know my last words to him were "I love you! Be careful!!"

By some Divine Intervention, we were not on the farm when he was discovered in the grain bin by his father. This is a small community, and everyone on the 911 response knew us. They worked in a panic for an hour trying to dig him out. By then it was 10:45. None of the cattle had been fed. From that, we figure he had fallen first thing--probably 7:30 or so. At that point, the girls and I were still in the house. But there was never a sound, no way to know.

Pete was young, 31, six years younger than me. We had been farming for six years, since his father retired. He had applied his own vision to that farm, turning it into a viable cattle operation. He worked so hard, seven days a week, wanting to build a great life for us. We knew farming was dangerous and thought we took lots of precautions. He had never been hurt before: I guess you always imagine the dangers will come gradually like a missing finger, then a broken leg, etc. Never dreamed it would go all in one shot with no warning or sign. And he was so strong. Like an ox. To be done in by tiny pieces of corn seems incredible.

So there I was with a huge farm debt, 400 head of cattle to feed (and I wasn't a chore-doing farm wife), and two small girls. After insurance checks, selling cattle, grain, machinery, and yes, the farm we now live in town in a nice little development in a new house. Even have a new dog. My job before Pete died had been running the farm books. Now I just raise our kids until Annie goes to school full time.

Doesn't seem like I'm telling you much. I guess I'm trying to explain HOW MUCH our lives have changed. Pete and I had one of those lucky marriages full of love and happiness and respect for each other. We were a real team. We were even in the habit of telling each other how lucky we were. He was my everything. We did everything "right". And it's all gone now. There's now way of knowing how it happened. Did he lose his grip? Was he overcome by dust? Did he suffer? How long did it take from when he fell to when he died? What went through his mind?

Sorry. Maybe that's sharing a little too much pain. The roller coaster has started to slow down now. There are good days and bad days. Still have lots to be thankful for. Usually I can "manage" the grief. Today just had to succumb to it for awhile. Thanks for caring.

Christel Mehlhouse

You can send email to Christel at: [email protected]
mail welcome

anniversary date 11-23-96
date of post 10-25-97

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW