On Anniversaries and Memories

My Generation

It's been a year since my mother died; sometimes it feels like yesterday and at the same time, like 10 years ago.

Published on: March 15, 2013

A year ago Sunday, we made a flying trip south. A year ago Monday, I turned 36, and had my last conversation with my mother. A year ago today, she slipped peacefully from the earth. And a week from today, she would've been 66.

In honor of anniversaries and memories that seem like yesterday and yet as if they occurred 10 years ago, I'm sharing the thoughts I gathered together last year, after reality had begun to settle. Titled, The End of a Long Road, this first appeared March 28, 2012.


The march toward the inevitable began last May.

The diagnosis. The tears. The treatments. The hospital. Finally, hospice.

My mother died last week.

She was diagnosed as the corn went in the ground in southern Illinois last May: pancreatic cancer, inoperable because of both size and location, already spread to her liver and surrounding lymph nodes. Stage 4. The second-opinion doctor at Barnes actually told her, "You seem like a nice person. I'm sorry."

It is difficult to learn you have no fighting chance. No real options. Only a shot at buying a sliver of time. It is particularly difficult for farmers, who seem always to have next year. Despite rain or drought or weeds or sick calves, there's always next year. Hope springs eternal, until you learn you have none.

My mother was a farm wife. She drove a tractor and a grain truck. Her pall bearers were the men of the community – men from church, from the stockyards, the fertilizer dealer and the equipment dealer and the equipment mechanic.

Carson, who's fixed Allis Chalmers tractors at Herschel Johnson's for just about forever, told me about the time she'd pulled the 9190 off the highway and into a field, and it locked up. He drove out as quickly as he could, stuck a bar in and unjammed the gears. "She was sure glad it worked, and I was, too!"

Marlene Walker, a neighboring farm wife, told me how she and Mom would work fields next to each other, waving from their tractors on the end rows.

Mom was a quilter, too. My word, the quilts. She started quilting in the early '90s; one of her first projects was to take a shoebox of pieces from a double wedding ring quilt my Dad's grandmother had pieced – found in the upstairs of his childhood home – and put them together. A fire was lit and she quilted almost compulsively after that. I have quilts to mark my high school and college graduations, and our wedding. My babies have baby quilts. She set aside certain quilts to go to each of my children, to my brother and his wife. When she'd rallied last fall, she and I went through them all, recording which one was to go to which person.

Mom was 64 when she died, just a week shy of her 65th birthday. Her goal last summer was to make it to their wedding anniversary and to her birthday. She was so close.

Life is different now. We are all changed. Dad remarked, just after she died, that it was no longer up to us to make her comfortable. Indeed. God is good.

That's been my rallying thought, since the day she was diagnosed. God is still God and God is still good. No matter our circumstances.

No matter.

We will move on, because we don't mourn as those who have no hope. Indeed, our hope is in Christ, just as was Mom's.

Life is hard. But God is good.

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  1. Danielle Kimbrell says:

    Holly, thanks so much for the memories. Right after I married, your mom came out to our new home and gave me one of my prized possessions. A pillow she had made using one of the last quilt blocks your grandmother had pieced. I can't wait for a heavenly reunion with them both!

    • Holly Spangler says:

      Danielle, that is so very cool, and it's so good to hear from you! A heavenly reunion for sure. :)

  2. Dan says:

    Dear Holly, I am so sorry for your loss. The effects of losing a mom are impossibly hard to foresee and much too long lasting.

    • Holly Spangler says:

      Well said, Dan, and thank you.

  3. Allen of Brosterfarms.com says:

    Holly, I can truly relate to what you're experiencing.

    • Holly Spangler says:

      Thank you, Allen.

  4. Darla Bradham says:

    Holly, your Mom taught me to quilt several years ago. She talked about your kids alot. She was a great lady.

    • Holly Spangler says:

      Darla, what a great story! Thank you for sharing it, and for your kind words.

  5. Shelia says:

    You are so eloquent, Holly. And though not a pleasant anniversary, it is good to know you and your mom are so strong in you faith! Thanks for reminding us that God IS good, all the time.

    • Holly Spangler says:

      Thank you Shelia. That means so much!

    • Grace Ann of Yahoo says:

      Thank you for writing about your Mom and especially for your and your family's faith in God and telling of believing in Christ. That is a great witness. I am proud of you!

      • Holly Spangler says:

        Thank you, Grace Ann, I appreciate it.

  6. Dave says:

    I'm so glad you believe in a higher authority, talking wiyh Him each day helps us all get over the hard times.

    • Holly Spangler says:

      For sure, Dave. For sure. And thank you.