A couple of weeks ago, my step-father passed away. It was unexpected to say the least. He was the husband of my mother for the last 28 years and father to three of my brothers. He was a humble and kind man. He was also a farmer.
It’s difficult to talk about my step-dad without mentioning farming because it was his love, his life, and his passion. He won tons of awards for his farming. In fact, he was recognized as the best peanut farmer in Virginia six times and if you know anything about farming, that is an amazing accomplishment.
But, here’s what is surprising about those awards: You would never know he won anything - at least not from speaking with him. He didn’t care about the awards. He cared about the process. He didn’t care that most farmers considered him the best farmer they knew. He just went about his days, entirely quiet to his own accomplishments.
As I’ve been processing his passing, I’ve discovered that there was one thing I learned from him that I don’t think could be attributed to anyone else, and that is the difference between personal pride and ego.
He took personal pride in the fact that his fields were almost entirely without weeds. If you have so much as a mulch bed around your home, you can imagine how difficult it would be to keep about 500+ acres of fields virtually weed-free. If not one single other person saw his fields, he would still keep his fields the same way. It’s just the way he was.
He won all of those awards because of the pride he had inside himself to do the best job possible. Anything less was unthinkable. It’s a far cry from ego where you do what you do because you care what others think of your work. For my step-dad, never the two shall meet. He had no ego and no puffed out chest for his accomplishments. He just kept his head down and worked hard.
He worked as hard as anyone I have known. He was up and off to work at dawn and rarely came back until dusk except for a quick lunch. Rain or shine, there was work to be done.
He was just 67 years old.
He was taken from our family much too early. If we truly want to think about how to live a great life, we must, unfortunately, consider our own demise. “Life is short.” or “You never know when our time is up.” are adages I have heard a number of times from people expressing their condolences. Despite these old and tired sayings, we are continually surprised by the shortness of our lives and live like we have infinite tomorrows.
Given that I am acutely aware of the shortness of life at the moment, I want to encourage all of us to take inventory of our lives.
If there is one thing I’m sure of, it’s that my step-dad did exactly what he wanted to do with his life. I feel confident that if he was given his life to live over again, very little would change. What about for you?
Are there passion projects that you haven’t started yet? Are there places you’ve talked about visiting, but haven’t? Are there relationships you need to rekindle or invest in, but have put it off for some reason?
What are you doing now that is causing you to miss out on these experiences? It could be simply working too much or too much time sitting in front of a television, or just a reticence to get started.
Whatever the reason, I hope this comes as a reminder to take inventory and if need be, make some changes.
Because in the end, we know that life is short.