I do not know who first penned those words, but those were the words that I chose for a post on my facebook page, A Place of Refuge, last year. It could have been used many times. Last year was just one of those years that reminded us that life is fragile, handle with care.

A diagnosis of skin cancer for my farmer took us by surprise. We had gone to the dermatologist for a routine checkup. Everything we were worried about she dismissed as no problem. But she saw something we didn’t.

When the biopsy came back, it was cancerous; another appointment for more surgery. Thankfully, all is good now. But we are on a regular checkup schedule now, and we do take them a bit more seriously.

This was our first major ‘Life Is Fragile, Handle With Care’ moment.

Normally, when my son calls to tell me they are coming for a visit, I react with delight. But when health issues caused some tense moments days before their second child was due, their visit to us was because we were closer to the hospital. Thankfully, a healthy baby girl increased their family to four members. The doctors have not found anything wrong, so sent her home with their blessings.

A second Life Is Fragile, Handle With Care moment.

Everyone knows that a telephone call from a child at 1:00 in the morning is not good. So when I heard my son’s voice again ten days after the baby was born, I was immediately concerned.

The machine shed was only a few years old, now it was in pieces everywhere. Neighbors helped on this farm and the other farms  in the area that  were also damaged by the tornado.

The bin that hit the house, flew over the highway and into this field along with lots of other debris.  Per the farmer’s request, some of it stayed until after small grain harvest.

Neighbors lend my son a helping hand. The house was damaged when a bin hit it and flew over the top. It truly is humbling to feel the love and care from neighbors after the storm. Their help and service, supported and encouraged our families so much. The words 'thank you' hardly seem enough, but they are meant from the heart.

He said a tornado had just destroyed their farm right after midnight. Thankfully, they had heeded a neighbor’s warning and fled away in the darkness, just minutes before the storm claimed the farm. It brought back memories of almost thirty years ago, when my parents farm was completely destroyed by a tornado, claiming the life of a family member. Emotions buried for so long resurfaced. Indeed – Life Is Fragile, Handle With Care.

My son’s farm is 300 miles away. By the time we got there, his neighbors were already busy helping clearing debris away. Country neighbors are the best!

So many decisions needed to be made. Our two other sons spent their summer there helping out. There is still much that needs doing; bins need replacing, machinery repaired or replaced. The plans are to rebuild machine sheds. The house, while structurally unstable, is at least livable for now.

We met our married son and his family at the Farm Fest show that takes place midway between our farms. We spent several hours checking things out together–the men went in one direction while my daughter-in-law and I searched out things of more interest to us and the granddaughters.

Before we said goodbye, I took pictures of everyone with my phone. They left to look at a corn planter to replace their beyond-repair damaged one. Four hours later, they were hit by a drunk driver. A trip for them all to the emergency room – thankfully their lives were spared, proving once again, Life Is Fragile, Handle With Care.

My farmer and I spent our summer going back and forth between the two farms. A week before the tornado, my father-in-law had entered into hospice care. He was in perilous condition, and every time the phone rang we wondered if we were being called to his bedside. Amazingly, he rallied and was dismissed from hospice.

During the fall harvest, his health suddenly declined. After four nights in the hospital, he went to his eternal home. Yes, Life is Fragile, Handle With Care.

I fully realize that many people have suffered tremendously and much greater losses and different stresses. Each day has its own trouble, little ones that may seem insignificant to other or bigger sorrows that are so difficult, it’s just hard to know how to handle them.

That is why it is best to begin and end each day with prayer.

Life is Fragile, Handle With Prayer.


Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa, and authored a book titled "A Place Of Refuge". Contact her at [email protected].