For a four-mile stretch in Wisconsin, along State Road 85 and a few miles southwest of Eau Claire, tall sunflowers greet you as you drive by. The sunflowers have a moving, bittersweet story of their own.
Don Jaquish planted the sunflowers as a tribute to his late wife Babbette, who lost her battle to cancer last November.
Babbette was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2006. The mother and wife convinced her husband to plant sunflowers, her favorite flower, four years ago to help others living with cancer and inspire hope. Neighbors opened up their land to him at whatever rent he saw fit. The sunflowers now span across five farms.
Image via Boyd Huppert, KARE
"They fit her personality. She'd walk into a room and her smile would light up the whole room," Don told a local ABC news affiliate.
The seeds, called "Babbette's Seeds of Hope," will be harvested and sold as bird seed at the end of the summer. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to hospitals, research and patient advocacy, and on each packet is Babbette's smiling face.
"She was a pretty modest person and I'm not so sure she'd want her picture on the bag," Don said, "but she's such a beautiful woman. She didn't really know how beautiful she was, inside and out."
Don discovered a letter from Babbette, four months to the day after her death, that truly speaks to the inspiring presence of the sunflowers and of Babbette herself. You can't read her words without getting goosebumps.
"You move on and live each day," Babbette wrote. "Feel me in the morning air, and when you wake up and make your coffee. I will be there always."