It was before dawn as Anna May hurried out of bed to get the coffee going before her son Martin came knocking at her door. It was the first day of hunting season, and she wanted to make sure he had a good breakfast before he went to the woods.
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving and all the men in her Amish Community had been planning this day for weeks. As she filled the coffee pot, she looked out the kitchen window to see the moon reflecting off a fresh layer of early snow. A deep sadness overtook her as she remembered how Walter loved the first snow. It was all she could do to keep her emotions inside.
She set the coffee pot on the stove, added a few pieces of kindling wood to the firebox and busied herself rinsing the beans that had been soaking overnight. As she set the pot of beans back on the stove, she was reminded of the day the stove was delivered.
She stood at the sink washing the breakfast dishes when she heard a truck pull up to the house.
“For heaven’s sake, who could that be so early?“ She asked as she turned to look at Walter who was finishing his coffee.
Walter stood and walked over to the window as he placed his cup in the sink.
“Looks like a delivery truck,” he said as he smiled and grabbed his hat off peg by the side door.
Figuring the truck was delivering something he had ordered for the greenhouse she went back to her dishes and tidying up the kitchen. From the front porch, she heard Walter call her name.
“Anna May, are you going to open the door or what?”
When she opened the door, she saw sitting on the front porch a new stove. They had just talked about replacing the old one last week and had not even considered that he would go ahead and surprise her with such a blessing.
“If you plan on making that bean soup you had better get those chairs out of the way so we can get your new stove set up,” he said as he moved past her to move the kitchen table out of the way.
After the delivery men had left and Walter finished setting up the new stove he handed her a note and turned and walked out the door.
That was forty years ago, and she still remembered the smile he had on his face when he surprised her with the new stove. While she waited for the coffee to finish, she pulled her rocking chair closer to the stove to ward off an early morning chill when out of nowhere she remembered the note.
She walked across the room to the cupboard where she kept her recipe box. Folded up, underneath her favorite recipe cards was a stained and tattered piece of paper. Once she held it in her fingers, a flood of memories released the tears that she had been holding back all morning. Sitting back in her chair she carefully opened the note trying not to tear the forty-year-old paper.
My Dearest Anna May,
My prayer for this day is that we spend the rest of our lives warming our souls, feeding our children and lifting each other up around this stove. The Lord has blessed me with a beautiful wife to share this life, and this is just a small token of my love for you. And …I am hoping the first meal you make on your new stove is my favorite bean soup.
Blessings and love, your husband,
P.S. The years have been kind to us. You have blessed me with seven children and a life full of the Lord, laughter, love, and plenty of bean soup. Lord willing my time is almost up here on earth, and I wanted to tell you one last time how much I have treasured our life together. After all these years I wanted to let you in on a little secret. Martin thinks I loved the first day of hunting more than anything, but it wasn’t hunting I loved, but coming home to you and the smell of homemade bread and bean soup simmering on the stove. Please promise me you will always make Martin bean soup on this day and always remember it was the warmth of your love that kept the fire burning in my heart all of these years.
Until we meet again.
Your loving and faithful husband,
With shaking hands, she folded the note and placed it in her apron pocket just as Martin walked in the back door. She realized Walter must have added to the note just a few days before he passed away.
“It’s not going to be the same with Dat not here,” Martin said as he reached for a cup to pour himself a cup of coffee. “He loved the first day of deer season.”
“I forgot my orange hunting vest, do you mind if I wear Dat’s?” He asked as he headed for the mudroom to look for the vest.
Anna May just smiled and nodded her head. She could tell he was missing Walter as much as she was and figured he had probably forgotten his vest on purpose so that he could wear his Dat’s’, just like he did every year.
As Martin walked back in the kitchen, he had a smile on his face at finding the orange vest and asked if she was making bean soup for lunch.
With a smile on her face and a warm heart she stood up and said. “For as long as I live you will always have Bean and Ham Soup for lunch on this day.
Photo by: Jim Fisher