Two years ago, Sam's mom was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and passed away. Our family witnessed another sad event just fourteen months later, when Sam's dad suddenly took ill and died. In between these two events, Sam's brother Doug was diagnosed with cancer. His passing occurred a few months after his dad's.
In those events, our family got a raw and up close view of what is important at the end of our days. Grandma and Grandpa Smith needed reassurance that they were loved; that their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, were near. Sam's mom had no regrets. She knew she had done her best, knew God was with her, and knew she was going to be with Jesus. It is hard to say with Sam's dad because his illness was so quick and effected his brain, but he was "Swamp Yankee" stubborn to the end. He left a lot of unfinished business behind with his kids.
Doug, also, just wanted those he loved nearby. He wanted them to know that he loved them. He said "I love you" to Sam more times in his last six months than in all of his 64 years prior. Doug loved his farm, his horses, the people, but he admitted that it kept him from doing the other things he wanted to do. He had a bucket list of about fifteen items that he had never done because farming is a 365/24/7 kind of life.
Sam and I did a lot of soul-searching. We came to realize that we loved what we had done with our kids: dairy goats, chickens, yak, maple syrup, cows, dogs, cats, horses, 4-H. It was all good! Our kids were better for it; our family was better for it. We have zero regrets! (Lesson from Sam's mom) But... our kids were growing up. Only Samantha was living at home and getting the "farming" done took longer and was harder with fewer hands. We were doing it, but we were leaving a lot of unfinished business in the process. (Lesson from Sam's dad)
In March, Sam and I wrote out our own individual bucket lists and made a date to go over them (busy people need to make appointments). It wasn't surprising how many similar items we had on our lists. It was surprising how many identical items we had! We talked about making plans to start doing some of the items (Lesson from Sam's brother) and what it would take to be able to do them: money, time, coverage for farm, etc. We agreed to spend the next 30 days in prayer about it all.
And here's the thing about prayer: God listens. Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate (a post for another day), our farm was closed in June and sold in July. We now have the time, money, and freedom from chores to work on our list.
With all that going on, I spent a lot of time at the ocean. It's my go-to place when my life feels stormy. Something about standing in salty, wild waves, soothes my soul. I reason that if God can deal with an ocean, He can deal with me.
And He does.