Over the past three weeks I have been profoundly affected by the news of four people who passed on. On the surface all four people were very different and the situations were very different. However, in many ways they were very similar and they all carried a message that we would all be well served to learn from this Thanksgiving.
Luke Schemm was the All American farm kid we all wanted our sons to be like. He died way too young and his death hit me hard. He was the same age as my son, Isaac and had a lot of the same interests and aspirations for the future. By all accounts he was the type of young man everyone looked up too, young and old. He lived each day to the fullest and accomplished an amazing amount in such a short time. I marveled at the strength, poise and dignity his parents displayed in what had to be their worst nightmare. Luke reminded me that our time on earth is short; we should make the most of it.
I had the privilege of working with Ann Religa. She was a 4-H Agent with amazing talent and even more energy. She worked hard and spent more time taking care of everyone else than she did worrying about her own needs. I can only imagine the number of lives she touched and the influence she had in the success of so many. No one worked harder or cared more than Ann and those are rare qualities. I worked alongside of Ann a number of times and admired her greatly. Ann showed me that a job should be more than a paycheck and that the legacy of the lives touched is more important than titles or personal success.
The third passing was that of Dr. Mark Bettencourt. I had the privilege of getting to know Mark a couple of summers ago when our daughters were on the same softball team. We shared many beliefs and ideals but more importantly we both shared the love of family and for our kids. Our daughters are both tough, hardnosed competitors who play for the love of the game. I truly enjoyed the time I spent with Mark but more importantly I marveled at the father and husband he was. Mark’s passing drives home the reality that nothing is more important than family. A man’s greatest accomplishment is his family, nothing is more important. Mark lived that every day and it was evident to all who met him.
Just this morning I received word that Justin Fouts passed on. I consider Justin a neighbor, his son’s land borders mine and we often talked along the road. Justin was one of the most upbeat, positive, fun loving people I have ever known. He lived a long full life and accomplished much during those years. He was always quick with a smile and a joke. I learned to enjoy life and to laugh often from my neighbor.
The news of all four rocked me and affected me profoundly. One I had never met, Luke, but in a way I had. I lived for two and a half years in Wallace County and served as the Extension Agent. I knew Luke’s family, they are good, salt of the earth people and Luke embodied the type of young person I worked with during my time there. I had worked alongside, Ann, and tried to live up to the example she modeled. She truly portrayed the saying, “find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life. Mark, who showed me what it meant to be a man, a father and a husband. He was a good man who put his family in the forefront of his life. Justin showed me how to enjoy each day and find joy in everything.
As we sit down at our tables this Thanksgiving I ask that you keep each of these four and their families in your prayers. Pray for their families to find peace and to know that they have communities of support to fall back on. I cannot imagine how tough these next couple of months will be for these four families and my heart breaks for them. Holidays are hard after the death of a loved one; I would imagine they are much tougher if the memory is still fresh.
However, I hope they will also take comfort knowing that each one lived a life of purpose and left behind examples that we all can model our lives after. We can all pause to look inward and strive to live our lives in a manner that will honor their memories. No matter what has happened in the previous year we can strive to live life to the fullest and leave behind a lasting legacy through our families and the people we touch every day.