I think that perhaps anytime one loses a loved one that the ensuing process of grief involves a period of personal introspection. I know that this has been the case for me.
It was a shock to learn in late August that my dad was terminally ill. His time on earth was very limited and his ensuing quality of life for those few short months was poor. I struggled amidst the stress of having to accept that his illness was something that I could not fix.
One afternoon this fall, as I sat in the Dallas airport waiting for a connecting flight to Florida, a bit of personal introspection reminded me that my dad had always looked for the simple beauty in nature. Although our professional lives took very different paths, we shared this unique love of the outdoors.
There have been many times over the past 17 years when I have felt that my life on a cattle farm in Nebraska fulfilled a lifelong dream of my dad’s. Although he was an acclaimed attorney, I think that there was always a part of his heart that yearned to be more closely tied to the land. He fulfilled this need by spending all of his free time outdoors hunting and fly fishing. I know that the fact that I chose a life working in agriculture was a source of tremendous joy and pride for him.
My dad not only loved to be outdoors, but he also loved to physically challenge himself while interacting with nature. To him, there was a simple beauty in pushing himself amidst the wilds of Mother Nature.
Last week I had a moment of oneness with my dad as I checked cattle health at the feed yard. It was a cold January day in Nebraska — cold enough that cattle chores were just a bit challenging — and I looked up to see three bald eagles soaring and hunting in the corn field just north and west of my cattle pens.
Watching the eagles was a truly awesome sight — one that my dad would have appreciated for a myriad of reasons. I spent a moment knowing that a piece of him was living on through me.
I’d like to think that perhaps it was the best piece of him—the one that held his true passion for the simple beauty of living in direct congruence with the land.