The Goat Lady and the Neighbor!

by Heidi Khalil, March 24, 2022

About 25 years ago, I needed some fresh goat’s milk. I was just starting to tend goats, and I had an orphan baby goat that needed some milk. I called around to a few of my farmer friends and was given a name and phone number of an elderly couple who had about 100 dairy goats. I called the number and spoke with a friendly lady named Ethel. She gave me the address and I drove the 15 minutes to her house.

Upon arriving, my son got out and unlatched the gate, as instructed on the phone call. We drove in, and the gate was re-latched. The house could not be seen from there. There were plenty of trees, and as we continued down the long driveway, we finally came to a neat, stone, ranch-style house, with beautiful dairy goats of various breeds grazing and gracefully walking around with their heads held high. The kind lady and elderly husband came out to meet me. They were in their 70’s. They were having the time of their lives being dairy goat farmers, after retirement from the hospitality industry some years before. They got married to each other while in their late 40’s. The window for having children had escaped them. However, they were spry, strong, and loved their post retirement lives. They were financially stable and on the frugal side. I found them both to be kind and wise. They were full of goat milk knowledge and statistics off of the top of their heads at a moment’s notice.

This hobby farm was a goat’s dream. Beautiful lush, green grass was everywhere. The barns were clean, bright and the goat’s every need was taken care of impeccably. The couple had plenty of goat milk customers, who had been assigned different days to pick up their portion of milk. Ethel told me that she had an extra gallon that she could sell me. She didn’t have enough milk to keep me set up until my next mama goat (doe) gave birth, where I could share the milk with the orphan kid, but for the present this was satisfactory. However, we chatted and she told me about some young females (doelings) that she would be selling soon. I took a look at them, as I was building my herd. She had lovely well-bred animals. Her prices were more than fair. I was interested.

I was so impressed at how strong and youthful this couple was. One day I asked Ethel about her health regiment after I had known her for a few years. She said, “Honey, I drink that goat’s milk three times a day!” Then she demonstrated her firm grip by grabbing my hand. I was entirely impressed. Her hand not only felt strong, but strong enough to be the grip of a seasoned cattleman in his prime of life! I couldn’t fathom that goat milk alone was responsible for what seemed like this fountain of youth. But she and her husband were convinced of it.

As the years went by, she became a treasured farmer friend. We were not super close, but we would visit each others homes and shared a few meals together over the years. Then one day she told me that her husband had passed away. She was alone on her farm with her goats. She began to need more help, and she hired a few young teen boys to help her keep things up. She put in a brand new commercial steel barn with sunlight penetrating roof panels. It was so nice even in the winter when it was cold outside, the sunlight was shining in the barn.

Ethel was a no-nonsense kind of lady, and her mind was sharp. She didn’t miss much of anything. I can still picture her expressions. They were priceless. She gave no pretenses…. what you saw is what you got!

Quite often, I would meet up with her neighbor. He and his family lived right down the road less than a one minute drive away. They helped her so much: hauling hay, lifting feed bags, fixing frozen water pipes, tending to goats and anything else she needed help with. The man of the family was an airplane mechanic. He was like the son she never had. He was patient, kind, extremely helpful and dependable both before and after Ethel’s husband died. His wife was kind to Ethel, and they had a teen-age son that had been around Ethel since he was a little one.

I had seen Ethel at Walmart a couple of times, after a long stent of not seeing her. She told me that she had scaled down her goat farm to about 8 goats, and that she had had cataract surgery, so she hadn’t been driving much. By this time she was well into her 80’s….possibly close to 90. I know maybe I shouldn’t have, but I just had to look into her buggy. Her physical strength always fascinated me. What I saw was, organic spinach, tomatoes, onions and a 6 pack of Coca Cola. Oh well, I figured that must have been her vice beverage of choice. I told her that I would stop by soon.

About 3 weeks later, I stopped by and made my journey down the long driveway. However, what I found shocked me. She wasn’t home and her house looked all closed up. This was milking time. Where was she? CLICK HERE skin care products

Photo by Jonathan Borba on

I stopped at the neighbor’s home. He said that she had taken a fall and broke her hip. She had to have hip surgery. He and his son were taking care of the farm, and he gave me the name of the hospital. When I called her, and she told me that she was about to “spring out of there”. She just couldn’t wait! Then, she got the news that she would have to be put into the local nursing home for about 3 months to get physical therapy before she could move back into her house by herself. She didn’t LOVE this idea, but realized that this was her reality. When she was released from the hospital and put into the local nursing home, I went to visit her. She hated being there. She was used to lots of fresh air, healthy food (except for the Coca Cola), playing with her goats, and working on her tractor. We had a good visit though.

At the next visit about a month later, she was feeling good and progressing, but a little perturbed. She told me that her nieces had visited her while she was there for the first time in YEARS! Out of the blue, they seemed to be concerned for her well-being and were trying to talk sweetly to her. She told me that they were like buzzards flying overhead waiting for her to die. But then she told me a secret that they didn’t know. She said, “Heidi, they are going to be in for the shock of their lives after I die! I left them what they have given me in this life….NOTHING!!!….I went to see a lawyer a few months ago, and I left everything I have to the neighbor and his son!” We laughed together and gave each other a high-five. She told me that her attorney was to be in contact with her neighbors, upon her death. She also told me that she had a copy of the will at her house in her safe. Looking back, I think she felt like telling me was another witness, so that her heirs would get what she wanted to give them. She told me that her life’s savings and all of her assets would go to them. She said, I have no debt. They have treated me like I was their own flesh and blood!

Well, from there on out, things started going downhill for Ethel. She got home and started getting around a little, and then came down with the shingles. The shingles are very harsh on an elderly woman. She told me the pain was terrible, and the smell matched the pain. Her neighbor took her in. The family cared for her during her time of need, all the time not knowing her intentions. She told me that she did not tell them. It would be a surprise.

Some time later I had seen her neighbor at the grocery store. He told me that she had passed. I was sorry to hear that . I asked him, “Did you get what she wanted you to have?” He looked at me in amazement, and said, “ You knew?” I said, “Yes, she told me.” He said, “We went to the funeral, and after we got home, I opened the sealed letter that she had given to me. She told me not to open it until after the funeral. She told us in the letter that the 13 acre goat farm, with the 4 bedroom/ 2 bath house was ours, with all contents. She left me the car and my son the pick-up truck. She left us quite a bit of money and so much more. We are so overwhelmed! We never dreamed that this would happen. The letter had the key to her safe in it. She said that I would find all of the legal documents in there, and that I needed to get in contact with the attorney. So I did.”

I asked him if her nieces had given him any trouble. He said that he was expecting it, but they hadn’t. However, he did say that her late husband’s relatives had shown up and were very angry that they didn’t get anything. He gave them the attorney’s name and number and the attorney let them know that everything was exactly as it should be. The neighbor then started the process of remodeling the stone house, and selling his much smaller house. He was the rightful heir….the son that Ethel didn’t give birth to, but treated her as gracious and loving as a son would his precious, aged mother.

WOW!!! The scripture is so true. “Better is a neighbor nearby than a relative who is far away.” Proverbs 27:10 (b). While this exact scenario seems like a needle in a haystack, I have been around long enough to have known of other circumstances like this, but not to this magnitude. Ethel had no children, grandchildren or even nieces who were willing to inconvenience themselves enough to show her the love of familial bonds. They were selfish and she was invisible, until she was nearing the end of life.

It is so sad that there are so many elderly people nowadays who have no one to love them. So many of them have so much love, time, and wisdom in various areas to share. Many of them have a lifetime of experience on how to be a good friend. Her neighbor and his family took the time to be her friend, community and then became family. Why is it that so many people navigate through life alone, cut off from humanity, when a neighbor might live as close as a literal 10 feet away from them? This should not be the case for God’s people. We are called to love more than to make money, have social plans, and entertain ourselves and our families. Some people might think….but, oh, I have kids and they will be bored if we visit an elderly person. My friends, don’t make this crucial mistake. If you want your children to learn how to love and serve others, they first must learn that when they go visiting, they need to wear an apron (literally) …..since they will be serving. The mindset that the world does not revolve around them is the right teaching. They will learn invaluable lessons about life that school and movies cannot teach them. Children are a gift from God. If your children do not know how to serve, they will be “takers”, and feel entitled all of their lives.

So, if you desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on this earth….don’t procrastinate, reach out to some of the elderly people around you, especially those who have become isolated by life, death or the pandemic. Don’t do it because you want to get their stuff when they pass, but because from an honest heart, you want to love. You will learn more about friendship and service, and your life and heart will become more full. Don’t let fear of the unknown deter you from taking the first step. It just takes time and effort. Pray, and ask God to help you through it. God’s ways are what is right. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39b) It’s time to revive them.


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