If you take Highway 85 through Eau Claire, Wisconsin, you'll see a touching tribute from a husband to his late wife — thousands of bright yellow sunflowers lining the road for 4-and-a-half miles. Don Jaquish made it his mission to honor his wife Babbette's memory by planting fields of her favorite flower. Babbette died last November at 66, after a long battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.
Babbette's legacy extends even beyond the stunning twin fields of sunflowers that each stretch 60 feet wide. Her husband, Don, and daughter, Jennifer White, began a company called Babbette's Seeds of Hope, which uses the proceeds from the sales of the sunflowers to help other cancer patients and their families. The money goes to individual families, hospitals, research and patient advocacy.
"The cost of cancer treatment … the cost of drugs, the travel, the clinical trials, the grueling testing … it's a whole gamut of heartache that goes along with the diagnosis," Jennifer told The Christian Post. "It was her idea to take the beauty of the sunflowers and give donations to other families, to research, to whatever we felt there was a cause for."
Her picture graces the front of every bag of birdseed that is sold.
"She was a pretty modest person and I'm not so sure she'd want her picture on the bag, but she's such a beautiful woman. She didn't really know how beautiful she was, inside and out," Don told USA Today.
When Babbette was initially diagnosed — "it was shocking," Jennifer recalled. "She did not respond well to her initial treatment. Doctors gave her anywhere from two weeks to two months to live. But she trusted in God and was supported by friends and family.
"They gave my mom two weeks to two months to survive and she did not respond to the first round of chemotherapy. … Through her will to live, her will to fight, her belief in prayer and God, her love of her family and friends, she lived for almost nine years," her daughter continued.
"My mom said throughout her entire illness that that was a huge part of her living as long as she lived was all the people that prayed for her."
It was during that time that she began planning Seeds of Hope. Babbette even created a business plan for the company. But as the cancer progressed, her family focused more on taking care of her and the plan was put on hold.
A month after Babbette died, Don, who has been a farmer for over 40 years, approached Jennifer and told her he wanted honor his wife the best way he knew how. He spent four years planting the entire field, even asking neighboring farms to use parts of their land for the project. They graciously agreed.
"They all loved her," Don said. "There wasn't anyone that ever met her that didn't love her."
"I was just lucky enough to be the guy that she fell in love with," he added.
Now the Jaquish family hopes to inspire others fighting the battle against cancer in hopes that they never give up the fight.
"We had an amazing response. We've had people all over the world send emails," said Don. "I hope that eventually we can find a cure for cancer, so other families don't have to go through what we have."
"Hang on to hope. There is hope in prayer," Jennifer said. "There is hope found in the new treatments, in research. Just have hope."