I've often been reminded of the Goethe quote, about how things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least, and never more so than when I visited the Allaman family a couple years ago.
Roger Allaman had just been named a Master Farmer, and on a lovely day in May 2008, I went to visit with him and his family and take their pictures. Roger had been diagnosed with a pituitary brain tumor in January of that year, and his condition worsened daily. Looking back, I'm not sure that he had much vision left at that point. And in fact, he was too ill to accept his award in July; his children accepted it on his behalf. He passed away that fall, right after harvest.
I had known Roger, and his wife Jule, for several years, though not well. Their daughter, Lori, was my first roommate at 4-H House, and I ran into Roger occasionally at various ag economics meetings. He was an ag economist at heart, and a master spreadsheet maker.
I learned a lot more about him on his farm that day. His two little grandsons were along with us, because their dad (Roger's son) was helping plant corn. Already that morning, he'd shared with 5-year-old Cooper and 3-year-old Carter a pre-K biology lesson on how a seed germinates. He really enjoyed showing them the soil and talking about how to take care of it – all in a way they’d understand.
He showed me the reasonably elaborate swing set he built, just for the grandkids. He loaded them up in the Gator for a picture.
This was a man who took time for the important stuff. He had to have known his time was limited, but I don't think he was the kind of guy who started making time when he didn't have much of it left. Roger didn't seem to let the urgent get in the way of the important. He said this to me that day: “I love the planting season and watching plants grow. I like the challenges that are presented in farming. It makes you really think about what you need to be doing in life.”
Life is, I think, very much about choices, even in the face of massive heartache. Despite what's thrown at us, we can choose how we respond. We can choose how we spend our time, and we can choose what's most important to us. I'm very grateful for that choice.
Thanks & Giving Day 11: Patriots