Sally Saville Hodge
By the time my mother died in 1998, some 60 years had gone by since she had departed the farm where she’d been raised for college, then marriage and the making of a whole new life, raising a family and helping her children raise theirs in suburbia. Throughout those years, though, she never stopped referring to the farm and its environs as “home.” And there was never any question that when she died, she would come home for good.
Indeed, when she passed, there was no service at the grand church in the suburb north of Chicago where Sibyl and Bill Saville had taught Sunday school, run rummage sales, coached church-sponsored basketball teams and had otherwise contributed to the fabric of this and the wider community. There was no wake at the funeral home that was almost kitty-corner from the spacious house on the tree-lined street where she had spent 40 of the intervening years since departing the farm. Although her neighbors on either side were aware of and saddened by her death, her world had shrunk as she aged to the extent where family and farm were pretty much the core of her existence. Few were left locally to notice the hole left in our lives when she was gone.
Instead, we celebrated Sibyl’s life in the humble church in the middle of the country that had been a fixture in our grandparents’ life, that we all had attended as a family on our visits, and where many of our children and their children in turn had been baptized. Many people, from a few remaining high school classmates to neighboring farm families, joined us there to pay respects to the woman they never stopped considering one of their own, despite the separation of years and geography.
Sibyl Arlene Anderson Saville was buried in the church’s small, well-tended cemetery, next to where her husband, William Bruce Saville had been laid to rest more than a decade earlier.
On a clear day when the crops weren’t standing, you could almost see the family farm’s grain bin and barn roof from her gravesite. It was fitting. Home for good, at last.
I can’t say that all five of the children who comprised our generation of the Saville brood shared quite the same connection to the small farm that occupies 150 acres not far from Danville, Illinois.
I can only say for certain what it’s meant to me.
While not “home,” as it had been for my mother, it has always been an anchor in my life. It serves to keep me tethered. To my past. To my family. To a pace and presence that renew me, often when I need it the most.
It’s been a constant in my life. And I can only hope that, long after I’m gone, others who follow me will grow their own special relationships with what it represents. That my son, and someday his children, will delight in the magic that can be found there on any given day. Whether it’s the sweeping expanse of constellations brightly dotting the cloudless nighttime skies, or the sight of two frisky foxes tumbling together in a bare field as they enjoy spring’s promise. The dusty scent of air rich with fall harvest or the perfume of flowers and earth after a soft rain. The sound of leaves rustling as the unfettered wind sweeps through branches or the chorus of frogs, crickets and cicadas serenading a warm summer’s night.
Every life should be blessed with a special someplace that creates stories worth sharing. For our family, it was the Saville Farm.