I’m dedicating this column, my first contribution to Good News for the Countryside, to my uncle Walter. I never knew him. He was born in the mid-1950s and died as a result of a farm accident in the summer of 1970 - he was only 15.
He was one of eight brothers living in the townland of Ouley in County Down. He had five sisters, including my mother, Joyce, and was a member of Glascar Presbyterian Church where he attended its Sunday School. I’m told he had a caring nature and enjoyed baking, as well as helping out on the family farm. Walter attended Rathfriland High School, where he was top of his class in his third year, and was an avid football player, playing basketball and cricket as well. Weeks before he was due to go into fifth year, he was rushed to hospital after a farm accident, dying 10 days later as a result of his injuries.
It’s sad that I never knew my uncle. My cousins have no memories of him, or being with him either. Even though he was so young when he died, his life was precious to Jesus.
The importance of farm safety
Farm safety campaigns are important and their prominence in recent years is to be welcomed as farm machinery gets bigger and bulkier. With the pressures on farmers, such as they are, it can seem tempting to make shortcuts, which can lead to risky behaviour. There are various factors that can lead to accidents and yet with fatalities, it is not only the generation that grieves for their loss, but also the generations to come who are denied knowing a dear family member.
But an even greater message for farmers and farm families is that God - who gives life - cares for you and loves you. Your life is precious to Him as well as to your family and friends. The Bible talks about this love many times. 1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God”. And in the Old Testament, Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that God takes great delight in us and rejoices over us in singing. We all are precious to God.
If you have lost loved ones as a result of a farm accident, remember that God is compassionate and sees your pain, as He is “…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Grief takes many forms and everyone deals with it in different ways - even siblings will deal with the death of a parent in their own separate way. No matter what our response to grief looks like, we can all be comforted and we are not alone.
God’s compassion never fails
In the book of Lamentations 3:22-23, we are also reminded of the daily grace that God bestows to encourage us each new day of our precious life: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”
As with my uncle Walter, we don’t know what a day may bring forth. Knowing God and being assured of our salvation through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the most important thing we can do with our lives. So get to know God, remember He loves you, and always Farm SAFE.
Rebecca McConnell was raised on a mixed farm in Rathfriland, County Down and is a freelance PR and social media consultant, running her own company, Purple Rain, since 2011. She is a member of First Rathfriland Presbyterian Church and is an officer in their Girls’ Brigade Company.
Her blog appeared in a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News For the Countryside’ in today’s Farming Life, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life.
You can look at other blogs in this series here.
Caption: Rebecca's uncle Walter, who she didn't know, dying as he did in 1970 aged 15 following a farm accident.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at email@example.com or call him on 07938 488 372.