One day as a farmer finished planting his crops, he sat on the back steps to take his boots off before going inside and began to think about his parents and grandparents and all they had done for him growing up. The thought came to him to do something special to honor them. He remembered that his grandmother had always talked about how she would have loved to have had a small vineyard at the back of the yard where she could see it out the kitchen window as she worked at the sink.
The next day he decided to plant six grape vines at the edge of the yard between his house and his fields, so they could be seen out the kitchen window. He planted one in honor of his dad, another in honor of his mom, and four more in honor of his grandparents. In front of each vine he posted a plaque with the names of each parent, one for LeRoi, one for Marge, one for Henry, one for Doris, and one each for Allen and Mary Ellenore.
At Thanksgiving, when all the family gathered together for their traditional holiday celebration, a couple of his grandchildren went out to play in the back yard and noticed the new vines and the plaques beside them. When they went back inside they asked their grandfather, “Grandpa, what are those plants out back and who are LeRoi, Marge, Henry, Doris, Allen, and Mary Ellenore?” “The plants are grape vines” he told them, “I planted one for each of my parents and grandparents.”
He motioned toward the couch and said, “Here, sit on the couch and I will be right back.” He disappeared into the study and when he returned he had a photo album in his hand. He sat midst his grandchildren, opened the album, and when he came to a picture of his parents or grandparents he told them their name and then a story of how they had played a special role in him becoming a man of God and follower of Jesus Christ.
When he had finished, he closed the book and took a deep breath as he remembered with great thanks the gift God had given him in his parents and grandparents. His grandchildren looked up and noticed tears at the corner of his eyes. One by one they got up from the couch, gave him a big hug, and thanked him for telling them the stories. The last one, his oldest grandchild, got up, gave him a hug, told him thank you, and then looked him in the eye and said, “Grandpa, you turned out just like them.”
Needless to say, that was a Thanksgiving he never forgot.
When the family returned to the farm the next Fall, where once was six individual grape vines now stood six rows of vines with two plants in each row. The farmer and his wife also added six picture albums on the fireplace mantle. Each once was labeled “Vineyard of Remembrance” and the name of a parent or grandparent.
The books contained pictures and hand written stories by the farmer and his wife of how the memorialized parent had made an impact on their life over the years. After dinner, the family would gather in the living room, open a book, and then take turns reading out loud the stories it contained. It became a part of their family tradition.
Year after year the farmer planted a new vine in each row and his wife added numerous pages to the picture albums as friends and family submitted their stories of remembrance. And each year after dinner the family would gather in the livingroom to once again remember. To remember not only the stories of the past but also to recount the stories in their lives that year where God used them to make a difference in the life of someone around them.
Eventually the farmer got to where he was unable to work the land or maintain the vineyard. So the family decided to rent the row crop ground and hire out the maintenance and harvest of the vineyard. The money from the land rental supported the farmer and his wife in their retirement, allowing them to stay on the farm. At their family gathering that Fall, after the meal, after the time of remembrance, the farmer announced the amount raised from the grape harvest and that together they would decide where to donate the money. They capped off the day with a slice of warm apple pie and ice cream. Oh the joy that filled their souls.
It all almost came to an end the year the farmer passed away. The farmer’s wife couldn’t stay on the farm by herself and there was no one to care for her or the property. The decision was made to sell everything except the vineyard. The proceeds from the sale supported the farmer’s wife in her new home in town. And instead of gathering at the farm each Fall for Thanksgiving, they would rent a church or community building. Just like before they would enjoy a meal together, recount the stories of remembrance, their own and those from the picture albums, especially the one labeled “Grandpa’s Vineyard of Remembrance”, decide where to give the money raised from the grape harvest that year, and enjoy a warm slice of apple pie and ice cream; it continues to this day.
Today, if you were to go back to the family farm, the vineyard is still there. There is a stone walkway leading from the back steps of the farm house to the entrance of the vineyard. Just before you get to the gate, on your left and on your right are two beautiful flowering trees. At their base are plaques with the names of the farmer and his wife. Above the gate is a sign made of decorative iron work. It reads, “Grandpa’s Vineyard of Remembrance.” And at the front of each of the six rows in the vineyard are the names LeRoi, Marge, Henry, Doris, Allen, and Mary Ellenore.
The farmer may have planted the vines, but it was his parents and grandparents that planted the seeds of God’s love and generosity in his heart. The stories of the farmer, “Serving as Christ Served”, in turn influenced the lives of the generations that followed, many of which he never met.
Since 1851 generation after generation have planted vines of love and generosity here at Josiah White’s Quakerdale Foundation. Their gifts to the general endowment fund have allowed us to harvest this year the resources used to grant the funds that helped support the charitable work of the
- Promise Academy,
- Quakerdale Eagle Basketball,
- Quakerdale Family Services,
- Wolfe Ranch,
- Hope4Healing Resource Assistance Network,
- Safe Care Learning Center,
- Center for Attention,
- Woodward Academy,
- Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Waterloo,
- Heritage Care Center,
- Prairie City Christian Reformed Church,
- Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends,
- Parkersburg Rotary Club 2216, and more.
As we look toward 2019 and beyond, would you please consider making a year-end donation to the Foundation? Your gift, of any size, will plant another vine in our “Vineyard of Remembrance” and expand the ability of the charities we support to “Serve as Christ Serves.”
PS – If you are interested in learning how you can create your personal family “Vineyard of Remembrance”, contact the development department:
- By email at Development@Quakerdale.org, or
- By phone at (641) 497-5294 x1272