I am so proud to say that my strength of character comes from you.
It must have been so overwhelming to lose your own mother at an early age. I know you worked hard at university, only to leave your profession once you married a farmer. From the city you moved to rural Alberta. You did not have a driver’s licence as you did not need one in town. You did not have a bank account as it was the norm of the day for the man to control financial affairs. You did not have an indoor bathroom or friends who you knew. The trip to church every Sunday was surely not only for your soul, but for your sanity so that you could enjoy the company of others.
A family quickly followed and the burden must have been great for you. But I recall that you said you made that effort to obtain a driver’s licence and enjoy some independence. And while in town one day opened your own bank account, breaking all social norms. That account built an indoor bathroom and eventually a beautiful home, and we all benefited from it. You recognized the importance of keeping personal savings and farm accounts in two very different places. Your encouragement to other women to take control of their financial destiny was courageous — and it made a difference.
Your great love was for your mother-in-law, Grandma, who was lovely and kind and helped you navigate the new community in which you lived. She understood the culture and customs, and shared them with you. Her laugh was contagious and she brought you through the tough times with grace and dignity.
Between the two of you, I had the best of encouragement and inspiration, for Grandma was quite at ease at breaking social norms herself. If there was a skill or trade that she was interested in, she just simply did it. She sang beautifully and loved to dance and while you did not have the time to do all those wonderful things, you did sew beautiful garments and learn the financial skills that every man or woman needs to run a functional and very large farm.
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Your commitment to your family never faltered and we counted on you. The extraordinary garden you grew out of necessity was a curse at harvest but certainly we enjoyed the best of everything. You often felt bad about not knowing how to play. But don’t feel bad, Mom — you never had the time.
I know that I can count on you always. Besides, in real life, it is our mother we call for when facing the darkest moments. Lest you forget, you also jointly raised my children and to my little family, you are a star.
Your home was also the nucleus in the farming community with a revolving door and rafts of guests who visit and enjoy your coffee, baking, and quick wit. Never one to back down in the conversation — especially on values, religion, or politics — friends sat at your table to converse and share their lives.
There are also children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who passed through that welcoming door. And for everyone, you continue to stand, preparing at the sink and at the stove the harvest of your soil so they may replenish their body and spirit. Even today as you celebrate your 83rd year, you remain committed to your 59-year marriage and continue to serve your family, church, and community.
I am writing this note to you from university, Mom. I will graduate at 60 years of age. It somehow just feels natural because I have never seen age, gender, trial, or circumstance stop you from embracing your day.
As a new bride, you experienced farm life and made the best of it. As a great-grandmother you continue to embrace life and change, and are modern, stylish, and smart. And you continue to live on the farm hosting the multitude of guests and family who are always hanging around. As a friend of ours said to me, ‘I always find your mother so joyous.’ And indeed you are with your welcoming greeting and callout to ‘come again.’
What you have done, Mom, is show us all that our lives are scripts and we get to participate in writing them, even when we start in rural Alberta with a quarter section of the unknown.
Some folks fear becoming their parents and young girls loathe becoming their mothers — but I don’t. If I can be half as resilient and courageous or have an ounce of your leadership strength and commitment, then I shall have more than enough.
Thank you Mom, for the strength of character you have fostered in me, for your trust, for your values, for your firmness, and for your love.