This past weekend we said our final goodbyes to my beloved friend and mentor, Ms. Addy. Those of you who have followed me from the beginning know that this blog was conceived eight years ago with the Lessons From Butterberry Farm Series. In these first raw entries I shared everything I was learning from my new homesteading friend as she took me under her wing and introduced me to a world I had no idea could still exist.

This woman single-handedly changed the course of my life and my family’s life forever. She took me, a 20-something young mother living a typical suburban existence, and opened my eyes to the value of learning true life skills. She showed me a slow paced, simpler way, centered around the home, and hinged on faith and family.

She opened her humble home to me… a complete stranger… and warmly welcomed me in. I was completely oblivious at that time as to how busy she must have been homeschooling three kids, gardening, canning, milking her cow, feeding chickens, and everything else that goes along with the homesteading lifestyle. Yet never once did she tell me she didn’t have time for a visit.

She was always incredibly patient, and kind, and generous. I bombarded her with questions about her lifestyle, and she always took the time to answer each one, never making me feel stupid for asking something that probably seemed like common sense to her.

Many hours-long chats were had on her couch or in her kitchen, always being productive with our hands, snapping beans or shaking a jar of cream into butter while we talked. She shared with me her concern for the future economy and why she felt it was important to be able to provide the basics for her family in hard times. She taught me her strategy of bulk shopping twice a year. She showed me her “grocery barn” where she stored all of the food in jars she’d been canning.

She introduced me to the world of foraging and herbal remedies, walking me through her yard and pointing out simple weeds such as plantain and dock. All my life I’d been walking on these plants and had never been told of their usefulness. I was completely fascinated, and soaked up everything she taught me like a sponge.

Ms. Addy blessed me with so many life firsts. My first taste of fresh, raw cow’s milk. My first canning jars. My first piece of cast iron cookware. My first blueberry bushes. My first trip to a grain mill to buy flour. My first visit to an Amish community. My first piece of homemade soap. My first time picking apples right from the tree and pressing them into fresh cider. And so much more.

Basically, she turned my world upside down. Or perhaps I was already upside down and she simply placed me on my feet.

What I didn’t realize until much later in our friendship was that she had been struggling with Multiple Sclerosis for years. Unfamiliar with the effects of this horrible disease, it didn’t occur to me that my time with her would be cut short. She was at the peak of her health and wisdom! She was the most industrious woman I’d ever met. She seemed to be invincible.

I took all of the knowledge she’d poured into me over two year’s time and got busy building my own homestead. The mixture of curiosity, enthusiasm, and passion she’d ignited in me exploded into a fury of experimentation and documentation. I consumed everything I could about self-sufficient living, then went out and attempted it myself, journaling my failures and successes here on this weblog.

Meanwhile, my friend slowly began slipping away. The disease had  taken its toll and her husband and children stepped into the roll of caregivers. For the last six years they have selflessly devoted their days to caring for her.

Early last week, she was finally freed from the prison her body had become and is now at peace once again. I know she is watching over her wonderful husband and amazing children, and is so proud of them all. I think she’d be proud of me, too.

Out of everything I’ve learned from Ms. Addy, one thing stands out as most important of all. Never underestimate the power you have to change somebody’s life for the better. Stop being too busy, or too worried about what somebody might think. Give what you can. Give your love, your time, and the shirt off your back if somebody is in need. Our time on earth is short, but through the kindness we show while we’re here our spirit can live on for generations to come. Just as Ms. Addy’s spirit lives on through me in everything I do on our homestead, and as she lives on through you when you do the same.

Please pray for this precious family as they continue on their journey in life. May their memories bring them comfort and joy in the days to come.