Fearless Like a Farm Girl
FEARLESS LIKE A FARM GIRL
The story of Shirley Hart, written by Jana Koch
“I don’t know if your dad has told you this yet, or if you already knew, but I’m losing my memory. So after all these years of wanting to be like my mother, I can finally say that I have something that is like her. I’m losing my memory like her. But don’t worry about me, I want you to know that I’m not afraid!”
I’d been interviewing and talking with my mom for a couple of hours, hoping to document the hero of a woman that she has always been in my life. We laughed, she told stories, forgot a few things, and I recorded every bit of it.\
But then the conversation turned to her recent memory loss. This was a conversation I never knew we could have. Here she was, in her beloved recliner, rocking back and forth, in the home she raised me, attacking the cruel disease of dementia head on, fearless, like the strong farm girl she is.
This woman. This home. The home where I have memories of a wonderful childhood filled with love and happiness, fun and endless games of Yahtzee. The home where I learned how to be a good person, to have love and compassion for others, to work hard, and to have faith in God and Jesus.
As I sat next to her, I thought back to all the time I spent sitting on her lap every day after school until I graduated, telling her my whole days events, my ups and downs, my joys and my fears through laughter and tears. I’m sure she sat down just before I came home so she could be ready to hear all about it. I have learned so much from her. Not only from her words, but I watched and learned from her actions.
There are a couple stories in her life that have become familiar to me and even to my children over the years, and she told me again as I sat next to her. I wanted to record them so that all her posterity could learn from her great faith.
I had a loving and faithful family with 5 siblings and the most wonderful parents a girl could ever have. I had 4 sisters and only 1 brother, so I sort of became the other boy in the family . My brother, Ron, was only a couple of years older than me. We were very, very close and did everything together.
I was a tomboy. If Ron was on the horse, I was behind him. I spent most of my childhood running on the heal’s of his feet. He didn’t mind a bit and loved me just like a big brother should.
Living in the country and near family, there was always something going on and some danger with the tractors and irrigation ditches. Lots of opportunities to rely on God.
I remember when I was a small child, we lived in the little garage while daddy and my uncles were building our house. They made the garage into a little house with 2 rooms separated by a curtain. We had a pot-bellied stove in it and my dad would start a fire when it was cold. When the house was finished, we finally got to move into our new red brick house.
One day the garage caught on fire and my dad was trying to put it out. I think my mother called the fire department and I remember praying and asking Heavenly Father to save Daddy. Uncle Bill lived through the field and came in a hurry. I remember the fire and how scary it was, and I prayed to save my dad. I was very frightened. They eventually got the fire out and everyone was safe. I prayed after to say thank you. I knew that we were being watched over and that I had a Heavenly Father who answered my prayer.
When we had our first child, Lori, we thought she was a real tumbler. From very little she could roll from her back to her tummy. We took her to the doctor and told him she was a smart baby and she could already roll over, but the doctor was concerned and did a lot of testing.
He found that she had congenital hips, or no hip sockets. My first thoughts were of devastation; this child is never going to walk, she’s going to be in a wheelchair all her life. But that never happened. They put her in a Frejka splint, with a bar between her legs to make them go out sideways to turn her knees out. She had various surgeries over the years to help correct the problem and she was eventually able to walk.
That little girl never ever complained. She was a complete angel and never cried about it. I did a lot of praying every night, over many years not knowing what the outcome would be. But we prayed. We knew He was there. I know that Heavenly Father heard us and took care of our little girl. It all worked out great. That’s another case where my faith came in handy.
We’d been chatting for awhile, when one of my favorite stories of the past came up. She couldn’t remember all the details, so we told it to each other filling in all the blanks.
I was working in my parents vegetable garden with my sister, Anita, when we were older and had children of our own. While we were busy picking vegetables, my niece, Amy, was watching after my 3 year old son, Jay, and her brother Eric. I remember Amy screaming from a bridge over an irrigation ditch that Jay had fallen in the rushing water. He had gotten too close to the edge.
Because it was the end of harvest, the corn stalks had been cut down and all that remained were the very sharp stubs of dry stalks. The fastest way to the ditch was straight through the corn field. We took off running. I was running along the side of the ditch, praying, help me Heavenly Father. Anita kicked off her sandals so she could run faster and ran across the sharp field of corn stalks. When she finally got there, she ran up and down the bank looking for Jay, but couldn’t see him. We looked at each other with fear in our eyes, not knowing where he could be.
Suddenly, Anita looked down and saw him in the water, clinging to the reeds on the edge in front her, looking up and smiling at her.
She quickly reached down to pull him up out of the water with what she thought would be all her might, but he felt light as a feather. It seemed as though someone was there, lifting him out to her. We were so grateful and ran back to the house to lay him on the bed to make sure he was warm and well. He was just fine and Anita, who should have had cuts covering her feet from the corn stalks, didn’t feel a thing.
I knew that He was with us.
My whole life I always believed in God and my Savior, but when something happens that says, your Heavenly Father just took care of you– now that’s where your testimony and faith grow.
I have heard these stories before, but listening to her share them again, knowing that she has faith in God and His son Jesus Christ, reminded me how much I have relied on the firmness of her faith as a child, as well as an adult. I realize how much I want to my children to know and learn from her amazing faith.
I shut off my phone and we sat quietly for a few minutes, and then suddenly she started to bare her heart to me of her testimony and her faith in God and Jesus Christ with such conviction and clarity. I quickly turned my phone back on and with tears streaming down my face, I listened to my mom tell me the things that I had hoped to hear.
I believe that I have a Heavenly Father and Savior who loves me and is with me and watches over me. I have had enough occurrences in my life, some not so happy times, and some really scary times, and some hurtful times, but I don’t remember ever not calling on Him immediately through the whole experience.
Maybe it wasn’t very nice of me to only remember in those extreme situations; I mean I always said my prayers, but when those kind of things happened, I was praying to my Heavenly Father the whole time for help and always thanking him in the end.
We all need to have experiences in our life or how would we grow and learn? Wouldn’t it be a blah life if we didn’t? I think it would be. We can’t always have the most perfect life. There are going to be things that happen that aren’t good and we have to face the challenges.
I’m probably going to be like my sweet mother who had dementia. But if this is the way it is going to be, I’m not going to fear it. I am not going to be afraid. I accept these challenges that are coming to me. I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and a Savior who loves me. I have a husband who loves me, takes care of me and watches over me. It takes the fear pretty much out of my life. I thank my Heavenly Father for the wonderful life that he has given me. I have no complaints. And if I go, I’m ready.
Mom and daddy are up there waiting and daddy’s got his fishing pole and I just have to grab that hook and he’s going to pull me right up and my mom’s going to be cheering him on.
You know what? Life is, life comes, life is lived and life is loved, and the next life is a reward.
Having that time with my mom, recording some of her life, her faith, and stories was one of the greatest moments for me. She may not remember all the details and she may forget some of her stories, but when it comes to her faith in God and Jesus Christ, she will never forget the love they have for her and her testimony of them.
This beautiful mother of mine has changed over the years, her hair has gone white and the wrinkles on her face show her wisdom and a lifetime of concern for others. She still has stories to tell even if I have heard them a time or two, and there are still things that I can learn from her. Because of those stories and hundreds more, her legacy of faith will live on for my children and my children’s children and so on. It’s stories of faith that help us know where we came from. We came from that red brick house. We came from the story of the little girl with braces on her legs and we came from the story of the little boy who fell in the ditch. We came from her faith in God that He loves her and loves each of us. These are the stories that strengthen us and give us a desire to know for ourselves where our faith began.