How do you honour a lifetime of work when you downsize a house or move from the farm? How can you keep a symbol of what your life’s work has been while letting go of your tools of the trade or the place where you worked for decades?

My friend, Pat, shared a story of how she and her sisters supported their parents' move and how she captured 48 years of their working lives. Her parents were Saskatchewan grain farmers moving from the farm to town in retirement.

As their daughter helped them pack, they discovered all of her Dad’s permit books. (A permit book is an annual delivery permit formerly issued by the Canadian Wheat Board and used by Canadian farmers to deliver and sell grains and oilseeds to their local elevator.) Pat took the boxes of permit books to her own home for safe-keeping.

Once her parents had settled in their new home, Pat and her Dad spent several afternoons tallying up how much grain had been produced and sold over the decades. She then translated that into loaves of bread, bowls of spaghetti, and bottles of beer. Pat then created a one-page chart with photos of each of those items and the quantity produced. 

The total?  Bread from Red Spring Wheat: 38,334,960 loaves. Spaghetti Bowls from Durum Wheat: 5,993,190. Beer from Barley: 10,592,400 bottles.


Her one-pager that sums up the product of the farming lives of one couple and their family is framable. This page with images and numbers could be added to a shadow box with stalks of grain and photos of combining, grain bins, and a prairie sunset. Imagine this art hanging in the living room of retired grain farmers.

Pat’s Dad loved showing off the calculations to friends who would drop by. It made him proud of his contributions to the Canadian economy, feeding the world, and supporting a family. 

The measure of a person’s life work is not only about making meaningful numbers out of sales or the financial bottom-line. However, quantifying her parents’ life-work in the way that Pat did is a touching and significant way to honour a life of commitment to vocation or career.

May this story inspire you to find ways to bring more meaning from artifacts and memories! I welcome hearing your stories about how you may have found ways to honour past work in your downsizing or moving.