On Monday, a family in Kansas gathered in a church to remember their little girl. Her name was Brooklyn and I didn't know her. But I read her story, thanks to Kansas friends. I can't stop thinking about her. Those of you who have already heard her story probably agree.
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Brooklyn was five and was riding in the combine with her dad last Wednesday, as he cut beans. Reports are mixed, saying that she was either leaning against or sleeping against the windshield. They hit a bump. The windshield shattered. The little girl fell from the combine, onto the header, and was killed.
Gut wrenching. Horrifying. Sick-to-my-stomach with goosebumps, at the very thought of this possibly happening. On our farm. To our child. To this poor child.
The very notion of this story is like a punch in the gut to anyone who's ever let their child ride in anything. Or to any of us who ever rode in that spot as a child. I can hardly count the hours I spent as a child with my head bouncing off the window of the XT.
And maybe it's because we have a little five-year-old ourselves. I cannot imagine. I cannot imagine that poor father. During parent-teacher conferences last Friday, I stood in the hallway and cried with a fellow farmwife/teacher friend, shedding tears over a little girl and a family we don't know but for whom we are completely heartbroken. My five-year-old has repeatedly prayed "for that little girl in Kansas."
Clearly, it was a freak accident. The odds of something like that happening are so miniscule. In terms of childhood deaths, she was likely safer riding in that combine than riding in a car on the interstate. And yet, it's not the first windshield I've heard blow out. The same happened to a northern Illinois farmer friend a couple years ago, but due to cab pressure problems. And my husband reminded me that when we first received the Case tractor that we won use of through the Illinois Farm Bureau Achievement Award, the gasket had slipped and the front windshield was about to fall out.
I suppose the question is, what do we do with this? Do we stop our children from riding in the tractor or the combine with us? I don't think that's the answer; my kids have spent hours and hours of quality time, strapped into the buddy seat. Safety folks would call that the training seat. My little Nathan has spent hours there, singing songs with Mr. Jerry, our farm employee, whom he dearly loves. He's had deep conversations with Grandpa and with Dad. Caroline and Jenna, too, singing songs, asking a million questions.
And there's the flip side: when our neighbor, Curt, was nearly crushed beneath his corn head 15 years ago, it was the young neighbor boy riding with him who was able to help him. He'd asked so many questions and paid so much attention while riding in that buddy seat, that Curt was able to tell him what to push in order to raise the head up off of him.
In the end, the best we can do is pray a deep prayer for this family. For a father who will carry this forever. For a family that will have to go on without a sparkly little girl. For the emergency crews that no doubt had to help that day.
Hug your babies close. And have the safest harvest you possibly can.