Farm Progress

Why you should resolve conflicts long before you R.I.P. or become the last one standing of your generation.

January 26, 2017

3 Min Read
BEFORE YOU R.I.P.: Making amends with your parents, brothers or sisters can never start too early, but can start too late.Alicia_Garcia/iStock/Thinkstock

In case you’re too young to know, R.I.P. means “rest in peace,” the final wish for those passing into eternity.

Last week, I became the last man standing in my family. I lost my brother and became the last survivor of our immediate family. It happens in every family, sometimes far too suddenly.

After falling off a ladder and breaking his hip, Jim’s accumulated health issues quickly conspired to spiral him down within three days. Fortunately, I was able to travel halfway across the country to be with him in his final hours.

While children and grandchildren carry on the “bloodlines,” it’s unsettling to realize you’re the “last man or woman standing” of your generation. What’s worse is when you put off mending fences with your family members until it’s too late.

It happens in many farm families. An elderly friend and former farm girl tried for decades to reestablish a relationship with her farming brother after years of anger on both sides. He refused to talk to her. Yet, he came to her funeral. His gesture — if it was to show respect — was too little, too late.

It’s never too early to bury past aggravations and establish at least a friendship. If you let it grow, sooner or later, that friendship can turn into a strong, lasting bond.

My story
Jim and I were six years apart, and very different. Like most teenage big brothers, he wanted little to do with his little brother. He was a mechanical wizard; I, a book learner. His strength was working with his hands — remodeling and designing equipment to work better. Mine was building my brain via studying books.

We gradually grew together, even as we lived far apart. He was always “Big Brother” and I was “Little Brother.” He was smarter in things I later wanted to learn. But I missed those opportunities as the miles separated us.

When we got together, we enjoyed the moments and each other. Even though we didn’t talk much, spending “together time” was a blessing. His garage made every mechanic, carpenter and me marvel.

We even caught a few fish, and shared the tale of the northern pike we almost got into the boat while it tried to steal the hooked walleye. Over the years, we grew comfortable saying “I love you” with each parting — because we did.

Many brothers and sisters miss such chances to grow together. That was the case with a medical equipment service rep who came to my brother’s home to pick up the oxygen equipment. This man shared that he had such a “big brother” relationship. His brother, though, was still alive. A second chance? I suggested it.

2 last resolves
Jim had a will reflecting his wishes, but not a living will or medical directive. He hadn’t followed my advice, and like a typical brother, he left tough end-of-life decisions to me!

I guess he trusted me to make the right decision — to remove the ventilator that helped him struggle to breathe. Even if he had partially recovered, he’d never have been able to work in his garage, help neighbors and do the things that kept him going. After we prayed for him and caressed him, he was gone in minutes.

So I urge you to make sure you have a written living will that specifies how you want to be cared for when you can no longer make those decisions. Make sure your doctors and family know it.

One more thing: As death comes, you can feel the person’s life force leaving, and it’s forever. So ask yourself: Where does it go? You need to, without a doubt, know the answer.

Bite-sized morsel
Forgive the past. It clogs up today and your tomorrow with regrets.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like