Karen Bohnert

Mom, it’s been 2,555 days since you left us. But who is counting?

It’s cliché, but the saying, “There isn’t a day that goes by without me thinking of you,” is so true. Although, I’ll admit, I’ve found some sort of normalcy in my life the past few months without you here on earth. When I realize that I’m getting by and not crying as often as I did, I sob. I don’t want you to think you are not missed because without question you are.

Children seek parents’ approval, and let me tell you, that doesn’t change now that I’m 41 or now that you are no longer here.

Even though you’re absent, your presence is everywhere. I hear your voice. I feel your embrace. From afar, you comfort me, and on days I feel it — like today — the tears roll down my cheeks.

You are missed. I like to think I could have figured out swaddling a baby, potty training a 2-year-old, and how to master making Grandpa Hutch’s spaghetti sauce without your guidance. However, having to figure out how not to lose my cool with teenage attitudes, learning to find balance in my own life, and not becoming completely overwhelmed with anxiety when I open the shrinking milk check is hard. I long to pick up the phone and call you for your advice and comforting words.

I’ll be honest . . . when I think I can’t do something, I think of you, Anne Michelle Davidson. I see you sitting in heaven, quietly cheering me on. It’s during the least expected and most needed of times that tears overcome me, and I know it’s you. You are gently talking to me, holding my hand, and saying, “Sweet K, I’ve never left your side. I’m right here!”

Seven years ago I got the call that changed my life. I was completely content, nursing Jacob at my house when tears flew down my cheeks. The news that you had left us was paralyzing.

Life has been so challenging the last seven years; so much heartache with losing you and Dad and selling our childhood dairy farm. Hurdle after hurdle, heartache after heartache, my road has finally slowed down to let me fully breathe and let me hear your calls — “It’s your time to be happy, K!”

So, today I’m happy, Mom. My smile is stretched wide. It’s the littlest of things that fill my heart — my kids’ laughter, or Scott saying that his fresh cow group looks the best it has in a very long time. It’s burning dinner and not losing my cool. It’s staying calm and clinging to my faith in midst of the storm that all of us dairy producers are facing.

I hear you, Mom. Continue to cheer me on, and I’ll do my best to live up to you and your amazing ways.

At times, when I think of all I’m not doing, you gently touch my shoulder and remind me of all the things I am doing. I heard you yesterday when I was sitting in a church pew during Palm Sunday Mass. Tears came down my face as I was praying for you.

I thought, “Gosh, life can be so hard at times.” Then I thought, heck, I’m doing it. I’m actively growing through life. Each Sunday, we lift you and Dad up in prayer, asking God to take care of you and to guide us. He has done just that.

It is so easy to focus on what we are doing wrong versus what we are doing right. Through all of your life’s adversities, you were able to focus on the good. I’m trying to do more of that — focusing on the good in my life. I won’t lie, it can be hard to find the good right now. The good doesn’t appear in the milk check or in the headlines.

The good in life are those people whom I kiss goodnight each night. How blessed am I to have three beautiful and healthy kids call me mom? And then there is my husband, Scott. His dedication to our dairy farm and to our family is nothing short of wonderful. I’m blessed to be married to a man who lives life with passion and purpose.

Mom, it’s been 84 months since you gained angel wings. This is what brings happiness to my heart. I have to remind myself that you are no longer suffering here on earth. You and Dad are watching us all from above with a coffee cup in hand, sending down encouraging and comforting words. Please keep chanting them, as they are needed. I’m learning to be happy.

Those gentle reminders come from above. They are bulbs pushing from below. They are sweet kisses from my kids. They are watching cows chew their cud. They are the warm embrace from my husband’s calloused hands. They are the sweet sounds coming from the church choir.

My words to you all are to learn to be happy. Continue to look for life’s gentle reminders that nudge you along on life’s journey. When you’re in doubt, be still in the moment, and that gentle breeze is letting you know it’s your turn to be happy. Enjoy life as it ought to be lived.

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 450-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.