Friday, September 6, 2013

Overwhelmed, but Faithful

There is joy and camaraderie in harvest. It is a season of complicated work and simple pleasures.
 Never do we feel more connected to the past on the farm. And yet, we are using the best farming technology that modern agriculture can offer.
 There is a little graveyard overlooking our harvest.
Like silent sentinels the tombstones guard the homestead. 
Rachel went to her grave as a young woman of thirty-three in 1888. All I know about her is written on this stone. Someone loved her enough to erect a monument to her life and that life was apparently lived in faith and heavenly hope. 
A little research tells me that the inscription translates 
"You were overwhelmed, but faithful." 
It took faithful women to settle this wild country. I am humbled by this sacrifice.
 The baby died at seven months. Just as Spring was dawning, at the time of greatest hope on the homestead, the baby died. This grave made me wonder if Rachel died of a broken heart, alone with her grief in a strange land, without the comfort of parents or kin. She couldn't face another Winter.
Or perhaps by October there was another babe within her and she had not the strength to carry on to term.
Either way, overwhelmed seems the appropriate epitaph.
The remnants of a nearby house are too modern to ever have been Rachel's home. This house was built after her departure. 
Perhaps a room at the back was the original home that she shared with her husband, where her baby was born and died. Where, likely she died as well.
 There was little to be done about life and death on the homesteads of the Dakota Plains in 1888. Medical treatment, hot compresses for infection or cold compresses to reduce fever, was administered with liberal doses of prayer and worry. 
I do not know this story, but I wish the walls could tell me. 
If I could answer Rachel's questions, what would she want to know? 
How could I explain what has happened with machines to work the land and harvest wheat?
What would she think of a farm without a single work horse, milking cow, or oxen? 
How could Rachel grasp the value of electricity for light and heat during our long cold winter? An airplane could bring her mother or sister to comfort and care for her. She could visit with her friends anywhere in the world on a cell phone. It would frighten her, I suppose, but her homestead, though still remote, is not isolated from the world. It need not be a lonely place. 
I hope her heavenly reward is warm and bright and full of color. I hope her sacrifice accomplished something good for her family.
"What is life? You are a mist, a puff of smoke, a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes." Never has that felt truer than today.
We are caretakers here for an instant and thankful that today is a very good day in GriggsDakota.
(Quotation from the book of James chapter 4, verse 14 in the Bible's New Testament)


  1. beautiful. growing up, those small cemeteries fenced in in lonely spots with the granite headstones set eternity in its place in my heart. this is a terrific entry. thank you for it

  2. I am sobbing at this post, Mom. Love it. And thank you! "It took faithful women to settle this wild country. I am humbled by this sacrifice." Amen.

  3. Beautiful. That's just what I was going to say. I enjoy walking through old cemeteries such as the one you described and wondering what their life was like. You make it sound tough, but wonderful none-the-less. I'm sure Rachel would be scared but also proud that the farmland is successful and the homestead still thrives.

  4. I have no words to describe the joy, hope and heartache. Thanks for the post. it's a beautiful reminder to us all.


  5. I love your compassionate insight....I could feel Rachel's loneliness, perhaps fear...and sorrow. You have a wonderful way of making me aware of "times past" and the trials that our loved ones of long ago faced...and to make me aware of my trivial complaints...Thank you!

  6. Wonderful post Jane. I have walked through our Eagle Cemetery many times where so many of my relatives are buried and am glad I know so many of their stories. I am thankful for all those "who came before" and for the heritage given to me and my family. Cia

  7. This is a truly beautiful post--One that I can personally identify with now that I have spent 17 years on the prairies of Nebraska. Reading it makes you think, brings a tear to your eyes, and puts life into perspective. So much in farming has changed since the late 1800's but yet the integrity of the farming family is still the same. There are times that I feel "overwhelmed" by Mother Nature, but I take a similar vow to always remain faithful--our land is our lifeline and my future is tied intrinsically with it.

    Thank you for enriching my day.
    All the best to you and your family,
    Anne Burkholder

  8. This is a great post. We haven't started our harvest yet but will before we know it. I love genealogy and history. And I often wonder what struggles and hardships my ancestors went through so I can be where I am today. I never take that for granted. . .

  9. Just discovered you on Facebook..looking forward to more of your posts! When I was growing up in Sioux Falls, SD we visited our grandfather every week..and I remember him talking about a winter storm of 1888 that was sudden and deadly! He was a young boy living in Dakota Territory, Tea, SD now in 1888 the year Rachel died in your story.

  10. Beautiful. God is so good...and faithful. I love coming here to read what's going on, and what the past has allows me a moment of peace without the world crowding in. Thank you for your faithfulness to write here everyday.

  11. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate the encouragement very much.