The End of a Long Road

My Generation

Blog hiatus explained: my mother died last week. And here, a look at hope, her life and our changed lives on the farm.

Published on: 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 saw their anniversary. 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. Anonymous says:

    Holly, what a wonderful article about your wonderful mother. Thank you for your faithful testimony to the Lord despite this terrible circumstance. I am sure your mom is so proud of you as is our Lord!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Holly, although I hadn't seen your mother in several years, I certainly remember her from all the cattle shows. She was so sweet and such a hard worker on show day!! I am terribly sorry for your loss. Your family is in our prayers! Tiffany

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful message of hope. God bless you and yours.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Holly: So sorry to learn of your Mom's passing. Best to you and your family during this difficult time. Your memorial was wonderful. Ken Reese

  6. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

  7. Anonymous says:

    So beautifully spoken. God bless you and your family.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You write from your heart Holly. Keep the faith.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing some real feelings with your readers,love to read your blogs even though it really stuck home, Mom would be proud,Sorry for your loss.

  10. Anonymous says:

    You are a beautiful writer Holly! Thank you for your tribute to your mom! Oh how I praise God that you grieve with HOPE! Hugs to you!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yes, thank you Holly for sharing this beautiful tribute to your faithful mother. And yes, this life is filled with hard knocks but Thanks be to God, He still loves us. You, your mom, dad and family have been in my prayers lately. Through experience I have learned to take it one day at a time. Keep the faith. Clark Williams

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your mothers life. Yes, God is good. Thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Holly, Your gift with the written and spoken word is truly reflected in this touching tribute to your mother. Our world and the close-knit agricultural community is blessed to claim people like you and your family who exemplify all that is good in our world. Your mother will truly be at home with our Lord as they smile down on you today and into the future. God bless you and your family as you cherish her memories and feel her spirit alive in you every day. Bruce Johnson

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart. I have tears in my eyes, thinking of your family, as I also remember my mother-in-law, who also died when she was 64 and when my kiddos were only 8 and 11. We lived 2 miles down the road and she was such an integral part of all our lives. She, too, was the definition of a farm wife, and she loved the old days when the co-op only had one pit for dumping grain and she could visit with her friends in the line at the elevator! Praying that your wonderful memories will continue to surround you and yours during this time.

  15. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful tribute Holly, and a testiment to your faith. God Bless. Shelia S.

  16. Anonymous says:

    One thing I have learned and so have You that Life goes on.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Holly you did a great job. She would be so proud of you. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Ora Lee

  18. Anonymous says:

    A beautiful tribute to your mom. She reminds me of my own mom. And yes, God is good.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Well done, Holly. I'm sure your Mom could not have been prouder of you. I remember when she found out she was expecting you. She was thrilled about becoming a mother although I found myself to be a little sad that an adult I had grown to be very close to would be having a child of her own. I wish I had known of her illness; I would love to have written and tell her how much I appreciated everything she did for all of us hooligans in Mill Shoals. You mother was my 1st and 2nd grade teach from 1972-1974. So very sorry for your loss, Patrick Hart

  20. Anonymous says:

    Well said Holly. I am certain her legacy will live through precious memories and great life lessons you too will pass on in her honor.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Holly--What a beautiful tribute to your mom but even more for giving God the glory as we all should in any circumstances!!! Your mom and dad taught you well. We will miss seeing her in Edwards Co. Love and Prayers to you and your family--Michelle Thomason

  22. Anonymous says:

    Amen to all the comments, Holly! A life well lived, and well documented in your well-crafted words. Dan

  23. Anonymous says:

    Holly, I'm so sorry. Your Mom is exactly my age. I would be so incredibly sad to leave my husband, my children and my grandchilren! She was probably very brave. What a legacy she leaves all of you - her faith in God, her work ethic, her love of husband and family and her quilts!! You can be proud and smile through your tears. I ask Poppa God to take you and yours in His hand and minister to you through this time and bring you out into joy and celebration of her life. Love you, Holly, even though we've never met. I feel I know you from your writings. Pat Hoffman, an avid Prairie Farmer reader

  24. Anonymous says:

    Holly, Your Mom died way too young. I grieve for you and your family. There is the old saying.."It is not the days in your life that matter, but the life in your years". It sounds like your Mom truly lived her life to the fullest. Doing the farmwork, raising a family, being involved in community, working with her hands to share her love with you and your family. May the blessings and example she gave you in her life comfort you as you carry on. God is good, all the time.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Holly, I lost my father 8 weeks ago and my heart goes out to all of you... you worded it beautifully and moved me to tears, again... you did what we did, we built memories and you will cherish those. Blessings and condolences to you and your family.