To a Waterfowl #6 – I’ll Fly Away

Note: The memoir, In the Garden, portrays the author’s mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God at the crossroads of her life. In the midst of the “why,” moments of her ife, she chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair. “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra. After marrying the love of her life, Henry, Ellen lived her entire life in the house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan(the site of present day Country Dairy)rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her. There she found her calling as a helpmeet and homemaker, transforming their home into a place of beauty and sanctuary. To view the memoir visit or In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

“I’ll Fly Away..”

“And soon that toil shall end,

Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,

And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend

Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest.” (To a Waterfowl, verse 6, Wm Cullen Bryant)


Our waterfowl’s journey is over!  He has finally arrived at his summer home, where he can scream with others of his kind and find safety and shelter among the tall grasses.

We’ve been comparing Bryant’s depiction of the migration of the shorebird to the pilgrimage of my mother, Ellen, as described in the memoir, In the Garden.  As our shorebird has reached his final destination, so Ellen has come to the end of her life on earth.   Helpless and dying, she lays on her hospital bed,  where she gazes over the farmland to the hills beyond. One senses eternity in her presence.  We listen in on her final conversation, “in the garden,” with her Lord:

  “MHoeing "In the Garden" #4 - Of Lilies and Sparrowsy dear Ellen.  It is time to go.  Today your name will be called, by the One who formed you in the beginning of time.”

Then, as His words broke through, yet hardly daring to believe their meaning, “My Lord, my Lord, can it be true? Oh, I have waited so long for this moment?

“Ellen, today you will enter into the joy of your Lord.  Come, the angels are waiting to bring you home.  Can you hear them singing?”  (In the Garden, pg. 109)



A shorebird’s migratory journey is fraught with dangers.  Besides looking out for prowling predators or human “fowlers,” our bird requires a plentiful food supply, energy for flying thousands of miles, mostly at night,  without stopping, and an internal GPS system that will keep him on course and bring him home.

Ellen’s journey, too was filled with challenges and trials.  Ekeing out a living on a small farm with Henry, was no small task.  Infected cows, untimely winds, torrential downpours, resulted in heartrending losses of badly needed income  The death of a daughter and estrangement from a son tore at the fabric of Ellen’s soul.  It was in these “why” moments that Ellen found her Lord, “in the garden.”

“And soon thy toil shall end…”

Ellen laid on her hospital bed…She felt tired, so very tired.

“Ellen.”  The voice familiar, soft and oh so tender.

“My Lord, is it You calling?”

“Yes, Ellen, it is time.”

“Time?”  She seemed confused; puzzled.  “Time, my Lord?  Is it time for me to get up then?  I think I have overslept.  Oh, my Lord, it is late? I have work to do – beans to pick and snip, roses to tend, socks to darn…”  She rushed on.”

“No, Ellen.  No, my dearest.  You have no chores to do today.  You have fought the good fight.  You have run the race.  Your earthly chores are done.”  (In the Garden, pp. 108,109)

“Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest…”

Eckart Tolle, in his book, The New Earth, describes heaven, not as a place, but as an inner realm of consciousness, available to us in the here and now.

Spiritual teacher and philosopher, Emmet Fox agrees:

“Heaven lies all about us – it is not a distant locality afar off in the skies, but all around us now… Heaven is the religious name for the Presence of God, and Heaven is infinite… Heaven is Eternity, but what we know here, we know only serially, in a sequence called ‘time, ‘ which never permits us to comprehend an experience in its entirety.” (Sermon on the Mount, pp. 36,37)

While this inner realm of consciousness was evident in Ellen, she very much believed heaven  was a place and longed for the time when she would go to join her loved ones, who had gone on before; however, this did not mean that she, or my father, shirked their earthly responsibilities and sat around dreaming of a life beyond.

” At some point, when life was hard and the going rough, they learned to view life in terms {of heaven} of eternity.  Their faith enabled them to see past the cornfields, the cherry orchards, the clothesline, and the garden to see the life beyond.  Their faith helped them through the disappointments of a blighted cherry crop, rotted potatoes, a diseased heifer, and a sick child.  Faith helped them to see, at the end of it all, their eternal inheritance.”  (In the Garden, pg. 118)

Heaven was Ellen’s ultimate destination.

And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend

IMG_4186In the memoir, I describe Ellen, lying on her death bed, traveling back and forth on the road to Heaven and how that experience, etched in my memory, inspired the writing of my mother’s story.

“As I sat with her, she would drift in and out of consciousness.  Many times, she would awaken from her dozing and be talking, lucidly, with Henry {my father}, who was obviously nearby for her.”  (In the Garden, pg. 106)

Again, we listen in as Ellen, on her deathbed, talks with her Lord:

“Angels, my Lord?  Yes, I can hear them.  I see them in the distance.  They are coming closer.  And, someone is with them.”  Joy rushing forth like a geyser from the ground.  “Who is that with them, my Lord?  Can it be, yes it is – my Henry!  Oh, my                                                                                                                                                     Photo by Larry Monat

Lord, my Henry!  I am ready.  I am ready to go home.”  (In the Garden, pg. 109)

Upon reflection, I believe my father was sent back to accompany my mother to heaven at the time of her death.

“Once in a far off time and place, Ellen had processed down the aisle on the arm of her father, Benjamin, to wed the love of her life, Henry.  Now she and Henry, were together forever, in the city of gold… Can you picture Ellen and Henry together again, their  resurrected bodies – renewed, whole, and glorified, leading the angelic victory procession? (In the Garden, pg 133)

Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest.


“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:3)

Their earthly migratory journey over, two, tired, humbled pilgrims, home at last with their Heavenly Father;  their faith was made visible.  Their faith had seen them through times of suffering, disappointment and grief – times, when they had prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” and their prayers were not answered in the way they would have chosen. Still, they never forsook their Jesus.

(Photo by Larry Monat)

“Faith is what God asks of us.  His invisibility is the test of faith.  To know who sees Him, God makes Himself invisible.”  (Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, pg. 175)

All their lives together, Henry and Ellen hungered and thirsted after God and cultivated that need with a daily diet of scripture and prayer.  Their faith was only deepened and strengthened through life’s experiences and challenges, giving them a firm hope in the midst of the journey.

On the small farm in west Michigan, where they rooted themselves, they were caught up in the great plan of God, giving their lives an eternal beauty and dignity. “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” (Psalm 62:1)

Hear the voice of their Lord, welcoming them home:

“For they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.”














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