top of page
  • Writer's picturelkotrba

A Picture Paints 1000 Words

The night before Thanksgiving, my children and I baked pies for Thanksgiving, as we do every year on that evening. The menu called for pumpkin pie, apple tart and unbaked pumpkin dessert. As in years past, I pulled out the pumpkin pie plate that my sister Lisa bought for me for Christmas soon after Jason and I had married. This year though, the site of the plate brought me back to Thanksgivings past, more than it has any other time. Instantly, I remembered a picture of myself baking pumpkin pie with my mom and Sister Imelda, a picture that I was able to remember perfectly. A picture that I had to find to share with my children.

As you can tell from the picture, it was taken in the mid-80’s, I believe it was Thanksgiving of 1986, I would have been in 6th grade. Two years prior to this, when I was in 4th grade, I had learned to make pumpkin pie at school. I assume now, that it was part of a math lesson in learning fractions but what I remember was a wonderful afternoon of baking in our large elementary school kitchen, with our teacher Connie Bjerk and the school cook. I also remember going home with the recipe and being so excited to share it with my mom. That day turned into a life-long moment for me and a tradition that has lived on to share with my children. As far back as I can remember, I have made the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, likely starting with this picture and likely being the reason that Lisa bought me the pie plate.

Of course, sharing this picture with my children brought about several laughs; how could I wear a sweater vest, why was my hair so short and why were the kitchen walls orange? But, it also helped them learn more about grandma Margaret, who they have only been able to learn about and love through stories, as well as Sister Imelda who I believe is a special guardian angel for myself, Jason and my children. You see, a picture really does paint 1000, or more, words. This picture could say many things for many people, it likely says different things for me then it does for my siblings, or my dad.

For me, this picture paints words such as love, hope, faith, determination, childhood, sadness, family, and support. It reminds me of a time of change in our family, when Sister Imelda had came into our family, truly sent by God, to care for my mom, but who cared for and loved all of us. I remember, initially, being fearful of always having a “nun” in our home and then later, being sad when Sister was no longer with us after mom moved to the nursing home. Sister was truly a part of our family and was there for every major moment in my life, confirmation, graduation, marriage and after the birth of our first three children. When Shawn was born in 2007 Sister Imelda gave him a lamb, he still cherishes that lamb today. Sister Imelda died in November 2007. Ironic how that stuffed animal may have been an early sign of our future with Harvest Hope Farm.

My mom. This picture is exactly how I remember her. I have few if any memories of her being well. As much as this saddens me at times, it is my reality and I know nothing different, so it’s okay. My mom always wanted to be a part of what was happening, no matter how bad she felt. Just like she wanted to be a part of my pie making in 6th grade, she attended all my sister LeAnn’s volleyball and basketball games. She went to card club for as long as she could and was a part of the church Guild until it was too difficult. She was always up for eating out at the “doghouse” and visiting my grandma. Mom never gave up and when she had to give in and surrender, she didn’t like it. I remember all too well the tears that were shed by all, the day we brought her to the nursing home in September 1988.

This picture brings joy to my heart as it reminds me of the mom who wanted to love us so much, who wanted to care for us herself, who wanted to be a part of our lives, despite Huntington’s Disease taking so much from her. It also makes me think of the kind of grandmother she would have been to my children. A grandmother who would be present for programs and games, cheering them on and reading them books.

Then there is my 6th grade self. I honestly don’t remember much about myself at that time. Life was so much different then from now. I think it must have been simpler. I often joke that I missed out on the life lesson of learning to shop because my mom was sick and dad ordered all of my clothes from the Sears Catalog, as you can tell from the picture. As much as I joke about it, it really is true that your experiences shape who you are, hence why I hate shopping today. I can’t really say if I was happy or not, probably as happy as I could be considering the circumstances. I remember being very close to my dad and him trying very hard to do the best he could for our family as Huntington’s Disease began to take over so many areas. The two women with me in this picture shaped so much of who I am today. Even though my earthly time with mom was short, she continues to live on in me today. Her battle with HD continues to be our driving force to find a cure for HD.

Yep, a picture paints 1000 words. I could go on and on about the memories that this one picture stirs up. During this holiday season, as you spend time with your family, take some pictures. Make memories and visit them often. Share with your children about your childhood and those people who were/are important to you. Don’t dwell on the things in your past that you would like to change, because you can’t, so why waste that time. Rather, focus on where your past has brought you and what you can do today to make this your best life.

I am truly thankful for all that this life has blessed me with. If I have said it once, I have said it 1000 times, I have no regrets, not even being born into a family with HD. God has a plan for my life and once I was brave enough to open my eyes to see it and my ears to hear it, the fear that I had carried for all of my adult life was gone. Yep, a picture paints 1000 words. What does your picture say?


Recent Posts

See All


Dec 13, 2019

Thank you MaryJo for making this connection! We appreciate your prayers for our mission!


Mary Jo Carey
Dec 12, 2019

Special thoughts and prayers for you, your family, and organization. I truly enjoy your writing and photos. (My Dad, Ingvald and your Grandpa Sam were brothers)

bottom of page