You were my life cheerleader, and I'm so thankful for that. I wish you could see your grandchildren now. I'm pretty proud of them; I think you would be, too. And, although you always warned me not to marry a dairy farmer, I know how much you adored Scott. I try hard to take good care of him, although I go against your advice to "make that man some gravy, he is working hard and burning calories," as I don't make gravy to go along with his potatoes.
Your death brought me closer to Jesus. You would be so proud of your grandchildren making sacraments, attending mass, and learning to live by the Golden Rule.
Growing up, my mom was strict and had high expectations for all of her children. Consequences were given in spades for poor behavior. I'm sure I aged her tenfold during my life's trials, but I also know her heart bloomed when I navigated towards goodness.
Through her generous and loving heart, she made special occasions fantastic. Homemade Christmas ornaments, the best homemade Manhattan sandwich for my birthday, and she was a fabulous 4-H leader. She also called and sang happy birthday to me and mailed cute cards without signing them, so I could reuse them. She was both caring and practical.
My parents endured storms that most will never comprehend: a house fire, bad brakes on a work water truck that took their only son, and farming (and thriving) in the 1980s. Of all the hardships they faced, they never asked why me. They plowed forward and continued to count their blessings.
She always reminded me that somebody has it worse. Wallowing is not attractive. Work hard. Count your blessings and don't pray for easier times; pray for strength and perseverance.
We are reminded of all of this as we salute birthday wishes to my mother in heaven. We are always keeping her close to our hearts.
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 University. 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.