Kobe Bryant's death has been all over the media. While an NBA superstar's life has little effect on us dairy farmers, the harsh reminder of his tragic passing is that life is way too short.
Yes, soon we will go back to living our lives, and something new will soon be trending in the news. But, I hope his passing encourages us all to stop and savor the moments that string our lives together. We need to slow down and enjoy life.
Nobody on their death bed says they wish they spent more time working in the office, or on the basketball court, or for many of us, working nonstop on the farm — no matter how much we love it. We must learn to slow down and really stop bickering about stuff that doesn't matter. Who left the gate open? Who ran into the west end of the barn? Sometimes, the bickering is only over differences of opinions.
Please, breathe deep and let it go. Stop sweating the small stuff. Those who are lucky enough to be able to, go hug your dad. Call your mom. Slow down. Listen to your kids’ laughter. Watch the sunset. Watch the sunrise, and realize that none of us should be taking this life we have been given for granted.
We saw the Bryant family photos and easily put ourselves there, emphatically trying to comprehend the depth of pain and grief his family is going through. It’s heart wrenching.
And what I know is that in the days that have followed since the tragic news was released on Sunday, I have been calmer. I have found joy in the mundane, savoring those moments. I’m listening more, hugging more, and loving more. I’m finding joy in the smallest of tasks, like washing dishes while the kids finish homework or watching my youngest do his evening chores, carrying water buckets with determination. I am listening to the kids recall their day. Little moments aren’t newsworthy, but these little moments bring an enormous sense of purpose and joy to my heart.
Years ago, I lost a brother, a mother, and a father. What I can tell you from those losses is that the most joy my passed loved ones provided happened on ordinary days: A game of pickup with my father and sisters in the front yard before helping vaccinate heifers; racing my father in the back pasture, me on foot, dad on the tractor; baking cookies with my mom; caring for a sick lamb in the middle of the night with my mother; or working alongside my brother, bringing cows into the parlor.
These moments seem so ordinary for farm kids and for farm families, but what tragedy and loss remind us is that these are the moments we must savor and find joy in. Let's all try to do just that.
Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State Univer-sity. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.