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Talk to and Appreciate People While You Can

It's too late once the Lord calls them home.

Hopefully this blog won't be as depressing as the subject indicates. But there comes a time in everyone's life when they need to realize that no one lives forever. I've become too accustomed to watching the obituary column in our local paper this year because it seems like there's someone I know there more than I would like - more than in the past. And reports of people heading to the next life come across my email more than I would like too. I've lost track of how many former ag teachers, all of them retired, have passed on this year. A couple of older Master Farmers have went home recently too.

Just last week word came that Scott Clark, West Lebanon, passed away of a massive heart attack. He and his wife Nancy were co-hosts of the 2003 50th Anniversary Farm Progress Show. Even though it was in Illinois, Scott farmed part of the ground in the show. He planted it in narrow rows- he was an innovator, in many ways. In fact, so much so that he agreed to let us try Farm Progress company plots the next year on his farm. The effort wasn't a rousing success, but he stayed out of our way, didn't complain and let us make our own mistakes.

Scott was only in his early 50's. I remember interviewing his mother, Marjorie, many years ago. She's also passed on, but back then she was a speaker at the Family Living Tent at Farm Progress Shows. She loved to grow herbs and was quite a gardening expert. I enjoyed seeing her garden. Only thing was the person that asked me to go see her lived in Iowa, and thought Lebanon and West Lebanon were side-by-side. I didn't ask enough questions before I said I'd go take her picture for her. As any good Hoosier knows, Lebanon and West Lebanon are like 90 miles apart, not next to each other. But once I committed, I went and got the pictures my cohort needed. It's a pretty part of the world anyway, very close to where timber lands meet the prairie.

Just a couple days ago, word came that Lee Rulon, sales and marketing director at Beck's Hybrids, passed away. He wasn't yet 65 years old. Having joined Beck's more than 35 years ago, he helped turn the once- small company into the largest privately-owned seed company in the U.S.

What I remember is his smile, that and his insistence on seeing me whenever I visited someone at the plant, even if he was in a meeting, and even if only for a minute. You don't find those kinds of people in key positions very often anymore, not even in agriculture.

And then, of course, there's my dad, who passed away Aug 21 at age 92. I've been asked to write about him and share his war stories and farming stories. Trust me, there's lots of humor and history there. I've even written up a few short stories, but I never got around to sharing them with him. Maybe I'll share them with you, but not yet. The memory is too fresh.

His time had come and we all knew it, including Dad. But soon after he passed, Arlan Suderman, one of our market editors and a good friend, told me you'll always miss him, and think of him every day. I wondered about that, but I can truly say that so far, he's 100% right. There are already questions I would have liked to ask him, and trips I would like to take him on, even if only to the feed mill, and even if it took twice as long to get him to the truck with his walker, and get him in.

The only good part of this story is I hope to see these people again. Especially my Dad. My niece had one of her first dates the other day, and at a family gathering, someone said. "Gee, wouldn't grandpa like to know about that!" He was always teasing her it was time to get a boyfriend.

She didn't miss a beat. "He already knows," she replied. Another family member looked at me and said, "Maybe she told him about him before he died."

I don't think that's what she meant at all. He knows because she told him in her prayers, and because he's looking down, free from the pain and cares, but still watching his family grow.

Yes, death is a fact of life. How you deal with it goes a long way toward determining what kind of life you'll live, and what attitude you'll take into each day.

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