The Harvest Moon and Memories of a Young Mother

In 1996, my youngest son Mark Joseph (Joe) was in kindergarten. I spent many hours volunteering at the two schools my four children attended. One of my volunteer activities was to help serve pizza at lunch one Friday a month at Joe’s school. Pizza day was where I began to cement my friendship with Jan and where I met her sister-in-law, Joanne. Both Jan and Joanne had sons in the same class as Joe. Joanne also had a son in the fourth grade and a daughter in first.

The day I met Joanne, she was excited about having ordered new furniture and a carpet for her living room. Then she found a lump in her abdomen, followed by a positive biopsy. We were serving pizza together again right before her scheduled surgery to remove the cancer. I asked her about her living room furniture. It had been scheduled to be delivered the day she got her biopsy back. She cancelled the delivery. Her husband called them back and had them deliver it.

In the early hours of the morning last night, a rash I acquired in Hilton Head (likely due to the heavy duty sunscreen I was generously applying to every exposed square inch of my body) was itching and keeping me awake. I got up to get some antihistamine from the kitchen. As I walked through hall beside our great room, the upper windows glowed from a soft light in the night sky. In the kitchen, a rectangle of light coming from the outside glass door, stretched across the floor. It beckoned me to come and see. The moon was full and bright in the sky illuminating my yard, and a rectangular patch of my kitchen floor.

That’s a harvest moon, I thought. And memories of that September in 1996 came flooding back, along with my friend Jan’s words, “I’ll always remember Joanne when there’s a harvest moon.”

Here are two journal entries I wrote in the spring of 1996, when Joanne was first diagnosed with the liver cancer. She died in the fall. When my friend Jan left the hospital after her death, she saw the harvest moon in the sky.

May 2, 1996

You’ve heard the forecast.
The storm is coming.
And although you don’t want to believe,
You do.
And you’re afraid.

Sometimes the fear is worse than the storm.
Sometimes not.

So you prepare yourself as best you can.
But you know your power is not equal.
And you know you can’t stop the winds and rain.
And you know there is no place you can run
and hide.

But do you know that the storm will pass,
after the uprooted trees and broken windows?
Do you know the ever-faithful sun will dry the land?
And the determined flowers will push their heads up
through the devastated soil, once again.


May 28, 1996

I know a woman who is dying.
It’s so sad.
It’s so unfair.
The only thing we can do is try to make the remaining days as good as possible.
She will be treated with only kindness and gentleness.
Everyone will forgive her trespasses
as she forgives those who have trespassed against her.
For her days are numbered. And she is dying.

Will she hear the birds more clearly?
See the flowers more brilliantly?
Watch her children with loving adoration?
How will she spend her days?

All the women I know are dying.
How will they spend their days?


“The Harvest Moon is the full Moon nearest the autumnal equinox and is bright enough to allow finishing all the harvest chores.”
2011 Fall equinox will be September 23rd. The Old Farmer’s Almanac

19 thoughts on “The Harvest Moon and Memories of a Young Mother”

    1. It was extremely sad. We went to kindergarten events together. They had a tea party for moms and their kids. It was hard to watch Joanne with her son while I sat beside my own.

      Some things are just difficult if not impossible to understand.

  1. The poems are brilliant. Never sentimental, tough minded, beautifully expressed, you are quite a poet (and I never remember seeing any evidence of this on your blog before, amazing).

    1. I’m not really a poet, but poems or short-lined verses are what come pouring out of me in my most heart-felt moments. I have them on bits and pieces and little scraps of paper here and there throughout my drawers and tucked into journals—none of which are filled.

  2. Enjoyed reading your journal entries. Sorry to hear about Joanne; my niece’s husband is waging a battle with liver cancer. He has a grandchild due this fall. I hope they get to meet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    1. Cancer is so tough. I too hope he gets to meet his grandchild. I know our grandson was a spot of light in our dark world after Annie died and my dad started a rapid decline into dementia.

      Live today.

  3. Hi Christine .. the memories of yore – thank you for reminding us life can be short and we need to understand, be kind, be compassionate to all – as we know not what waits around the corner.

    By chance do you know how the family is doing? Such a devastating time for them – her husband sounds so empathetic (and that was good to read) … I love your journal entries .. and the link across to the Harvest Moon and her final hours …

    The Harvest Moon will be a reminder for me now .. the moon is very bright here at the moment and rises up into the sky .. with thoughts to all who suffer and care .. Hilary

    1. The last I heard, the family is doing well. Joanne’s husband remarried in the years after her death and the new family got on quite well as far as I know. The kids are all grown now. Life goes on.

  4. All the women I know are dying.
    How will they spend their days?

    A sobering reality…we all should live our lives like we only have a month to live…Life would be so sweet! Thanks for sharing your memories.


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