Way back in 1940, during the Second World War, we had to move out of our house. Otherwise, the whole family would have been in danger. All the families did that. We went on and that's the way it was.
When the war was over in 1945, we were liberated and every street had events, jubilation, feasts and dancing in the streets that night. My neighbor boy lived on the same street as I did, and we both went over to the celebration and he brought me home. I was now 18 and I had grown up and I knew better than when I was 12.
Two years later, the neighbor boy and I were married. We had been married for 6 months when John Moerman, who was Jim's father, came to our place and told us he was going to go to Canada. He asked us if it was something my husband would be interested in. My husband said, "Yes", and after a year we got a letter that there was a farmer in Ontario who was willing to sign for us, so we could come to Canada. That was another step into the Moerman's elevator.
My husband's father was so against it that he didn't want to talk about it. Since my husband had been five years in the underground and had been working for a couple of years for his father, there never was really any money to save to go to Canada. My husband took it in stride and went through our papers and we were okay to go to Canada. However, when the time came to pay for the tickets, we did not have the money. We were hoping my husband's father would come across, but he was so against it, that he would not do it. So, we had to write to John Moerman, telling him that we had everything in order, but that there was no money. So, John went back to the Dutch farmer who was not too far from him. The farmer had already been in Canada for a couple of years and he still had property in Holland and he wanted to sell it. We got a letter from John Moerman saying that we could go to a certain place in Holland, borrow the money and pay it back to them when we got to Canada. That was us moving up in the elevator.
We arrived in Canada. John Moerman came to pick us up. He was a fruit farmer. We lived together in the same house for 6 months. John and his wife had one son and we had one son. So, because we were all living together, we go to know one another very well. We were both frugal because they were saving up for a car, and we had to pay back our debts. After a while, John went to Holland, Michigan (I think it was Holland) because he wanted to study for the ministry and we went our own way. Years and years passed; those things just happen. They went one way and we went another way.
After a couple of years we were able to find a small farm and my husband wanted to become his own boss. That was the beginning. He started working and I was working and so it paid. We had two boys at that time. We had been in Canada for just about seven years. We got a letter from my husband's brother who was working all over the place. At the time, he was working with his father and he wanted the car was looking for a job.
One Monday morning, we had taken the day off to take him to a place where he could take the test for his driver's license. It was in July; it was warm, and we came to a lake where we stopped to have a swim. My third boy was six weeks old when my brother-in-law came. While the others went swimming, I was still in the car breastfeeding the baby. I heard screaming and I thought to myself, "I wish he wouldn't scream so much, because if he was in danger, we wouldn't know. " He was in danger, but we didn't expect that. He was a very good swimmer. It was an undertow that took him and my husband could not help him. I was running around asking for help. The firemen came in a boat and they could not find him for a long time.
The Moerman family entered our lives again. John's brother lived in the neighborhood and they took us in so we could relax a little bit after all the struggle we had gone through that afternoon. At 7 or 8 o'clock that night, they came to tell us that the body was found. Then we had to make a phone call to the father who did not want his sons to go to Canada.
That was something ha really settled in our heart; you're here one day and the next day you're gone. You're always working and you wonder what you're working for. You have three boys; you have to go on living; you cannot give up. So we worked and kept on going, doing what we were doing.
A couple of years after the accident; it was in the middle of the night; there was like rolling thunder that came into my bedroom and my name was called. It was so clear, "Coby". I sat up and could not believe that my husband didn't hear it. He was still sleeping, and I thought that maybe I was imagining it, but it wasn't my imagination. It was so real. The next morning came and I wondered if I should tell my husband, but I thought if I tell him I am not a perfect person. He would call me "just a woman out of the blue", so I never told him. I thought I might have gone loony in my head.
Anyway, that went on for a bit. Then we came from a prayer meeting on Wednesday evening and we were in the car, and before we got out of the car, my husband said, "Do you believe that God still calls people like he did Samuel (Sandra)? I said, "Yes, I believe that." He said, "How come you believe that?" I said, "That happened to me!" So, he said, "That happened to me that night I spoke out." I never said anything. He was an elder in the church we were going to, and he started to talk about it, we both knew that something had changed in us because our name was called. That night when my husband asked in the car if I believed, he came out of the car and into the house. We had been married for 17-18 years and we talked for hours like we had never known each other in a way. Things had changed within us.
My husband wanted to bring change to the church. We didn't know what happened to us. People did not know what think about us because my husband kept saying that. We had to leave the church because people came and they just didn't understand. I'm not blaming the people because I'd probably have done the same if someone had told me that. We had to leave the church and after he was born again we went to another church.
In the meantime, I had gotten pregnant with our fourth boy. After he was born, we had gone to the church for almost a year, when the pastor and his wife care to our house to see the baby and bring a present. When they left, they said to my husband, "You better not talk anymore because you are disturbing the people." Well, those are things you begin to wonder about- what happened to you and why has it all happened to you. There was no way out of it; we had started and we couldn't go back.
In the meantime, there was a revival tent with an evangelist out of the southern states, out of Georgia. He preached of what we were trying to tell the people. That's what we thought.
We went so faithfully to his meetings, and my husband was so taken in that after the season was over for him, we sold the farm and my husband was willing to go with him to Holland to tell them what he had experienced. By the time we were ready to go, the evangelist was gone and also the money for the tickets. That's where we were. Our experience just shook up one church who didn't like it. The second one didn't want us to come anymore, and the third one, we thought it became such an upheaval for a while anyway. We had sold the farm. WE sold it in March and we could stay in it until the first of November. In the meantime, we had to get rid of our furniture because there was no use in taking it. My husband had bought a 26 foot trailer. That's what we were going to pull. That was the plan, so we stuck to the plans we had made.
The farmer, who had bought our place in the summertime, said, "How is everything going and what are you doing with the furniture?" My husband wanted to sell it, but we still needed it until November. The farmer said, "I'm kind of interested in it. How much do you want for it?" Well that came so unexpectedly. We never really decided what we really wanted for it because we were so involved in what happened to us. We were more focused on that than the furniture. So, my husband said, "I'll give you a piece paper and pencil and I'll get a piece of paper and a pencil and you write what you want to give and I'll write down what I want for it." Now you probably don't believe it, but they had the same amount. That was such a soothing experience; there was something good about it. The first of November came, and we had to leave the house and move into our trailer. The younger lone was 6 months and we started to travel. Travelling down south in the wintertime was very pleasant and was nice.
My husband had a boat and an outboard motor, so the boys could fish. He went fishing, and when we came back, we had to work, so we ended up in the Okanagan in the orchards. The first couple of months were good. We had to have an income some way or another; the two youngest ones weren't old enough to work, so I went my two oldest and my husband. He was still working and that was all nice. The weather was nice, and then the fall came. Apples had to be picked and the orchard was full of apple trees. My husband was one who started at 6:00 AM and we worked until 6:00PM With the two boys and my husband and I, we kind of proved ourselves to the farmer, but we had to be there at 6 o'clock in the morning. When apple picking time came, the ground and the trees were wet from the morning dew and every apple you picked; the water came down on you. I started to feel so sorry for myself. So far, everything had gone well, but this was terrible. O said to God, "Do I have to do this as a woman?" Do you expect me to live like this?" I had things to do at home. I started to complain, and I became so unhappy. After 3 or4 days, I thought if I go on like this, and I don't pick an apple I will lose it. I would be miserable and make everyone else miserable. I knew enough from the Jews when they were murdered. I was trying to get it done with a joyful heart like what God says, "Whatever you do, do it with a joyful heart!" I wanted to try it, but U also knew that without God you can do mothering and I tried to be joyful in my job but to-----. God says, "I work in you; I will make you willing and able!" I experienced that it in my life. It was not only apple picking, but we still had four boys, my husband and me. We had to have meals and since at 6 o'clock in the morning we had to have breakfast before we were up on the ladder and back home at 6 o'clock we had to have a meal. It amazes me how God brought us through it - willing and able and doing a job. To me it seemed like it was a mountain. I was not able to do it, but with God's help everything came through. It was not only just picking apples, but mealtime too. There was always the strength. You could stretch it to the last. So we did that from 1966 until 1977. We lived that kind of a like and it was a wonderful life, even thought it was hard work in the summertime.
On a Sunday afternoon someone came to the door and told of a woman who was a friend of mine who was a friend of mine who was found in the river. She had driven her car into the river and she wanted to drown herself, so she came to our place. Well, through all the trouble, I had a nervous breakdown; that's what they called it in those days. After not being wanted in church anymore and the preacher who took our money, I came through those things. But, you become a little bit nervous. There was something in me and I had to get rid of it.
So I know I got rid of it. My husband helped too. Well, the lady left and went to Saskatchewan to her place, and before we went south that winter in the fall we went to Saskatchewan to her place and something happened there. When God says to, you should not go the left or the right, just keep straight. Anyway, we had gotten off the straight path for going south. We went to Saskatchewan to her place and something happened there, and my husband couldn't forgive himself, and it was a depressing winter for him even though we were down south. I was hoping that things would get better as we were starting back to Canada. We travelled to Pendleton, Oregon. I always cleaned up the breakfast stuff and kept things so they did not fall when we traveled. I kept the doors locked and things behind the cupboard doors to keep everything stable. I honked the horn as I was ready. The boys were wandering around. I honked the horn and the boys came, but not my husband. I asked the boys where their dad was. My son said, "I don't know. IU saw Pa going to the washroom." When we had different water my husband sometimes had trouble with his innards, and he had diarrhea. We went to the washroom to see if there was any trouble. MY husband had hung himself, and there we were. Anyway, it was in a park, and we didn't know where to go.
We got a Park Ranger to help us because we didn't know what to do. He phoned the police and the police came. It had to be investigated to see if it was murder or what it was. When the police came, they told us they had to bring him to a funeral home. Since we didn't know Pendleton, the police brought us to the funeral home in Pendleton. I was wondering how long it would take because it was 7:30 in the morning when we asked for help and it was around 4 o'clock before the police actually came back and told us what was going to happen to us. The policeman brought us to the funeral home where my husband was already. I knew I had money for groceries. My oldest son had enough money for gas, as he was in charge of that and my husband always had money in case something would go wrong with the truck. We didn't have enough money to pay for a funeral home in the Sates. I knew we had it, but not with us.
I was worried about that and sitting all day worrying about it. How was I going to do that? How would it all end? It took so long sitting the funeral home. The man in the office said, "I am sorry. I had to drive my wife to her sister's." He was gone all day. When he came back, I told him my story. He said, "Don't you worry. You think about what happened. When you go back to Keremeos, (that's where we were located in the Okanagan) you send me the cheque. At the time I didn't realize what that really meant/ So, I had to sit there and I had to phone my son, who had married, and I had to come to Pendleton because something had happened to his dad. He came on Saturday. It happened on a Friday morning and I was thinking what am I going to do with the rest of my life. I will never go to Keremeos anymore. I was ashamed. I didn't know how to handle it. I did not know what to do.
On Sunday afternoon, a car stopped at the trailer in the park. How they did hey find us in a State Park in Oregon, I don't know. There were 3 people from Keremeos. The couple where we worked most of the time, picking apples and a friend came. They drove all the way down from Keremeos. They brought a bottle of wine to celebrate. They had found out by phoning the police and getting all the information over the phone. How they found it is still a puzzle to me, but anyway, they came. Anyway, I didn't go to Keremeos, but Keremeos came to me. Then I knew I could go on the way we had been, but that was that story.
We worked without my husband and tried to go on, but it just was not the same anymore. The leader was gone. We traveled one more year. We worked that year in the Okanagan and in the fall we went down south. My oldest boy drove, and we tried to live the way it was. However, that was the last year we did it. It was 1979 and my oldest son had problems too. We tried, but we all knew that something was going to happen to him. We always tried to be with him. We said, "Don't leave him alone". I was working and my younger son came to tell me that he was going to go. We had a cousin visiting from Holland and he was going with her to a place. I said, "Where is Joe?" My older son's name was Joe. I said, "Should you leave him alone?" He said, "We cannot be his babysitter all the time." So, when we came home at night, we discovered that my oldest son had committed suicide. That was two years after his father died. So, we had to change our lifestyle. We bought a house, and life goes on with God's help. I found myself so jealous sometimes because I just acted as if nothing had happened. But on the other hand, I know sitting down feeling sorry for myself which was not really good for me either.
I got a job that God really provided. A job I could do - cooking - a job in a lodge in the mountains. It was really such a relief that I could go the mountain, to the top of the mountain. My youngest son could go with me so it was a blessing of the Lord when that job came around. That went on for a couple of years. Then I got a phone call from my second oldest. He had to go to the doctor. He was at the doctor's in the morning because his eyesight had started to fail. The doctor told him he had to Vancouver because they could do anything for him and he needed to go to a specialist. So I took him to Vancouver. I was waiting for him, and I heard his cry. He said, "What of my children?" That was such a cry from .the heart that I knew something was seriously wrong. The doctor, a female doctor, came out and she came to me and she gave me a hug, and she said, "Your son is so sick." I said, "How can that be? He is always working; he's never been sick." He was always on the skinny side. She said, "He has cancer in his body and it has gone to his brain, and is affecting his eyes. He has not long to live."
So we came back, and he didn't last long. It went to his lungs. He died on Halloween night in the hospital. He was so skinny that they couldn't find the veins to give him any injections any more. I was at the end of my rope.
In ten years I had buried two sons and I told God I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't stay there anymore. I had to get out. But after a while it started to settle down. I had a brother in Ontario and I decided to go there. My youngest son was into drugs at that tat time, and he was doing what he shouldn't. He was into marijuana and all that stuff. I couldn't handle it any more. I thought he has to learn to be on his own, so in a way, I was going to pull the rug out from under his feet so he'd have to stand on his own and be serious about work. It all worked out. The house was going to be handed out and my stuff was in storage. The night before I went see my friend and told her I was gonna do it, but I was still worried about my younger son. I thought if I leave him all by himself, and if he really goes into drugs, then I will blame myself for the rest of my life.
My friend phoned me, and aid, "Before you go tomorrow, you come on over. I had a dream last night. We'll have a cup of coffee and then you go." So, I went to her that night. She told me her dream. She said, "We were both working on the railroad with a jigger (I'm not sure you know what a jigger is, but you have to pump it.) We were working hard, and we stopped for a bit to take a drink. There was a man sitting there, and she said, you said to me "If the man wasn't sitting there watching me maybe I could have a snooze." The voice came back and the voice said, "I am not watching you. I am watching over you." There was a burden off me when I heard that I because I know that I was on the right track. I was not alone. I went and it didn't take very long before my son found a job - a job that he is still holding, so it all worked out pretty good. That was the way it was in Ontario where we started when we came from Holland.
I would still rather be in BC than in Ontario, so I knew I could not stay with my brother all the time. I had a job for two months, cooking for a rich lady in Toronto who had a cottage in Algonquin in Northern Ontario. She wanted a cook for two months, and I did that. When the two months were over, she asked me if I could stay and go with her to Toronto and go into her apartment. I said, "I'll do it until Christmas", because she was a nice lady and we got along very well. From there, it became two years because she got sick. She had had cancer before and her cancer came back. So, I stayed there with her until she died. She was in palliative care. She asked me, "Coby, how do you do it?" I said to her, "What do you mean?" I kind of knew where she was heading. She said, "You know what I mean." But, I was so empty myself. I couldn't pray for her. I could do nothing for her." She said again, "Tell me how you do it?" I said, "All you can do is be yourself. She said, I can never be myself. I never let on if I was hurt." She had never learned to open to anybody, so what she was telling me was actually something she had never told anybody. Yet to this day, if I think about it, if I prayed for her and told her other things I would not have believed it myself. You are so empty from the inside out, but even if you know that God is with you. There are no feelings.
Anyway, I left there and came back to the church in Ontario - the same church we had left because the people didn't understand. Now, people were open; they were so welcome to receive me. There was a changes in that church. Jack, Pastor Jim's cousin, who died not too long ago, said, "Do you go to church?" I said, "No. I haven't gone to church for years. I just could not go." He said, "Maybe you should go to Langley. He knew I had lived in Langley and he knew that my house was in Langley. Maybe you should go to my Cousin Jim's church. So, when I came back to Langley that's what I did. I looked for the Moermans in the phone book. The first Moerman I found was not a preacher, but the second one was and that was Pastor Jim and that is when I moved completely into the elevator.
To give into yourself, just to become sorry for yourself is the worst thing to do. To change your attitude you have to do something. If I would not have changed my attitude in the apple orchard, it would have been a miserable summer and winter for years to come. My son went to Mexico last winter; he went with the car and he went to all the places where we camped and where we had traveled and where we had stayed. He said to me, Mom, I had no idea what a special life we had when we were living like that." That's the way I look at it myself, too. It was a different life. There was not too much stability because when you're picking fruit, you were wondering it was a good year or not, but they were the best years of my life. Even if it ends in sorrow and sadness, I know God has been with me from beginning to end. I know he chose me through all of it.
Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
It's then I have to remember
That it's in the valleys I grow.
If I always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God's love
And would be living in vain.
I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow,
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valleys I grow.
I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.
My little valleys are nothing
When I picture Christ on the cross
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan's loss.
Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.
Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.
Thank you for valleys, Lord
For this one thing I know
The mountain tops are glorious
But it's in the valleys I grow!