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By Staff | May 4, 2018

By default, obituary

writers get the last

official word on

everyone. They tell the deceased

person’s story

through births, marriages,

and deaths; add to it with

names of parents, siblings,

and children; and round it

out with an anecdote or two

about hobbies and professional


Maybe that’s why my father

had a hand in writing

his own obit; he wanted to

tell his own story. I learned

this fact only after his July

2016 death. I could have

guessed it, though, because

the spare, no fanfare obituary

was as spare and no fanfare

as he.

My mother, however,

didn’t write hers. I did that

solemn duty the morning after

her death, brought on by

a fall, on April 22. Mom’s

obituary is nearly as spare as

Dad’s with only two, small

flourishes. Mom was a euchre-

playing shark and she

could sew anything from

dishtowels to her pastorbrother’s

albs. She wasn’t

just a seamstress; she was an


But the official obituary

of Twila Ruth Guebert, 86,

of Red Bud, IL, doesn’t

touch on her fuller, more

challenging life: her birth

into poverty on a Dust Bowl

Nebraska farm; the unfathomable

hard work she and

her family



on a




hill farm

just to




fever; how

she was so smart she

skipped fourth grade; or

why she never told her stern

parents about her dreams to

be a nurse.

Her wedding came only

three months after her high

school graduation when she

married my father, five

years her senior. At 19 she

was a mother, again at 20,

and then again at 21. I was

born two months after she

turned 23; Perry when she

was 25. There was a sixth

child eight, merciful years


How did a 25-year-old

with five children under age

seven on a 720-acre, 100-

cow dairy farm at the end of

the road manage it all?

Like many farm women

of that era I suspect, she often

didn’t. Oh, her sewing

machine ran past midnight

and she beat the sun to the

kitchen most mornings, but

it wasn’t enough. There was

always canning, noon “dinner,”

laundry, diapers, inlaws,

and countless other

mother and wifely duties


That’s where we came in.

When my brothers, sister,

and I got old enough to

climb a ladder to wash windows,

hold a hoe to weed, or

use a paring knife to peel

potatoes, we were put on the

assembly line to boost production.

It usually ran from

7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day

we weren’t in school or in

the dairy barn with Dad and


And it wasn’t just tough;

oftentimes it was too tough.

We came to dread the

work because while it yielded

delicious food, a clean

house, and a sense of German

Lutheran pride, not one

of those Ball jars held one

laugh and no shiny window

or polished floor sparkled

with one smile or one joke.

In short, none of it-not

our work, output, or success-

made my mother happy.

I wonder how many farm

women of that era experienced

similar trials, similar

unhappiness, and similar

darkness? No one ever

talked about it then and few

even talk about it now.

Why? The silence almost

killed her.

Despite the many unspoken

reasons for my mother’s

unhappiness during those

backbreaking, kids-everywhere

years, the darkness

seemed to lessen when

grandchildren and financial

stability arrived. First came

grandsons, then, a gaggle of

granddaughters and greatgranddaughters.

With them she became

the mother who, maybe, she

always dreamed she would

be. Patiently teaching them

how to make peach pie and

sew doll clothes, encouraging

them to raid Dad’s candy

jar when he was snoozing

by the TV, showing

them where gallons of ice

cream lay waiting for them

to make into chocolate


All the while laughing

and smiling, something her

children never saw or heard.

Throughout that welcome

change, however, she kept

her skeptical, tough eye on

life. Her hard beginnings

and decades of hard work

seemed to have perpetually

wrapped her in a hard shell

that never allowed her a

restful, soulful peace.

I humbly pray, Dear

Lord, may she finally have

that eternal rest. Surely she

earned it.

The Farm and Food File is

published weekly through

the U.S. and Canada. Past

columns, events and contact

information are posted at


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