Carl Bates was running a grain farm in Galva, Illinois, when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and given just a few months to live. At this time, not only was his family battling with the heartbreak of this devastating news, but their livelihood hung in the balance.
In the summer of 2015, shortly after Carl’s diagnosis, his family tentatively reached out to friends and family for help harvesting their corn, hoping to limit their losses and help pay for Carl’s mounting medical bills. Needless to say, they were blown away by what transpired.
In an email interview with The Epoch Times, Carl’s wife, Pamela Bates, shares her version of the harvest day that she’ll never forget, fond memories of her late husband, Carl, and the book that was born out of when a town came together to help their own.
“We started dating when I was 15 and he was 16, so we were high school sweethearts,” Pam began. “We married five years after we started dating and were married 34 years.”
Carl was a childhood cancer survivor and was told he would never have children. Nonetheless, Carl and Pam went on to have two children together, “a miracle he was forever grateful for,” said Pam. On July 31, 2015, the farmer’s terminal cancer diagnosis came as a painful blow to the entire family.
“He was always my strong person,” Pam reflected. “His peace gave me peace. When asked if he wanted us to pray for a miracle, he said, ‘I’ve had my miracles; I can’t be greedy.’”
A Common Purpose
However, as it turned out, there was one more powerful miracle yet to unfold for the beloved patriarch.
Carl entered hospice care for the aggressive form of cancer, but the harvest time was fast approaching. With Carl unable to harvest the crops due to his condition, the Bates family decided to reach out for help from a few select people. However, after the family decided to spread the word further, the turnout was nothing short of extraordinary.
“Carl’s cousin Dan had put the plan in place and everyone was so committed to doing their part,” Pam recalled.
On Sept. 25, 2015, around 40 volunteers, 10 combine harvesters, 12 grain carts, and 16 semi-trucks descended upon the Bateses’ farm. It took the diligent team around 10 hours to harvest all 450 acres of land.
The Bateses later speculated that it would have taken them nearly a week to achieve the same result.
Regaling the day and event, which is now dubbed “The Most Amazing Harvest,” Pam said, “There was such a feeling of community; everyone coming together with a common purpose.”
Local businesses even donated meals, snacks, and drinks for the volunteers in a show of solidarity. “Carl went out that evening while everyone had stopped for dinner and thanked them from the truck,” Pam recalled. “Carl never wanted to ask for help; he was always the one wanting to help others.”
Pam said that she personally felt “humbled” and “blessed” by the outpouring of community support.
Not long after, this love story went viral, attracting international media attention, as a community came together without expecting anything in return.
After a valiant battle, Carl lost his life less than two months after the community harvest day. Pam bore the grief by clinging to her faith and finding solace in support groups.
“I met a great group of women through an organization called Modern Widows Club,” she said; “this community understands what widows go through and helps focus on growing forward.”
“The Most Amazing Harvest”
Before long, Pam was compelled to share Carl’s journey by writing a book with her twin sister, Paula Patty.
“Honestly, God was telling me to ‘write his story’ over and over,” Pam recalled. “When I realized he wasn’t going to give up, I asked Paula to help and we took our first book writing trip.”
On Nov. 1, 2016, the first anniversary of Carl’s passing, the sisters took a trip together and their project gained traction. “This journey was a confirmation from God that He was going to help us,” said Pam, “by helping us write it and then providing a publisher.”
The fruit of the sisters’ love and labor was a biography, The Most Amazing Harvest, both a moving love story and a tribute to a small town with a humongous community spirit that came forward to help.
According to The Most Amazing Harvest website: “The goal in writing Carl’s story was to inspire others to recognize the miracles and joy regardless of the challenges they face.”
Remembering a Beautiful Life
“We made a lot of great memories when traveling,” Pam shared, recalling a poignant memory from the early years of her marriage to Carl. “One trip in particular was a trip to Hawaii when we were exploring a quaint little village,” she continued.
“After coming upon an old couple shuffling along, we both commented how grateful we were to spend the money and take this trip while we were young and able to enjoy,” she reflected. “We truly had a beautiful life.”
Today, Pam is reminded of her late husband in the “little moments,” a song on the radio, a memory, or a mention from one of the couple’s six grandchildren.
Speaking of the personal philosophy that keeps her strong, Pam explained: “I created a mission statement years ago that I’ve tried to live by. It’s an acronym for FOCUSED,” she said, demonstrating, “Follow God’s plan, Open to opportunities, Create a legacy of love, Use my talents, Smile, Encourage others, Dream.”
“If God calls you to it, He will get your [sic] through it,” she said.
The Most Amazing Harvest was released as an e-book on June 2, 2020. Hard copies will be available as of Sept. 22.