Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Cross Necklace

Yesterday was the anniversary of my father-in-law's death. It's hard to believe that a full year has gone by without Mark physically among us.

Last night, the family joined together to celebrate the Mass dedicated to Mark. Then we convened after dinner for a few drinks and much laughter. Undoubtedly, a wonderful novel could be written about life on the Kramer Farm and perhaps it will be a project someday. But as I listened, I heard some of the untold and perhaps unrecognizable lessons taught by Mark and Mary Ann...

Lesson #1: Hard work builds character. And you're never too young to carry ten- gallon buckets of feed, chase cows in a cornfield or gather beheaded, bloody chickens.

Lesson #2: Helping others is rewarding -- even when you think you're free of chores because of your collegiate status. Pulling a calf isn't all that gross once you realize you've helped to bring new life into the world.

Lesson #3: Laughter is a great way to show love. I've seen my husband hug one of his sisters only once in the 17 years we've been together. (And that's when she won a new car.) But the Kramers know how to share stories and laugh together. And boy their laughter is contagious!

Lesson #4: Nothing is more important than God and family. Despite the lateness of the season, combines were shut off and schedules were re-arranged to attend Mass and spend an evening together.

The last lesson resonates with me because of an incident that happened long ago when Doug and I moved on the home place. I was busy carrying small boxes in the house, while the men were carrying larger furniture. While I noticed a bright gold chain laying on the ground, I chose to ignore it. Then one time, while standing outside contemplating which box to bring in next, Mark saw the chain and picked it up. He cleaned off the dirt and offered it to me. The chain had a gold cross pendant. I've worn it on many occasions since.

But on the day of Mark's funeral last year, I couldn't find it. Looking absolutely everywhere, I had to give up the search and felt horrible about not wearing the gift my father-in-law gave to me.

Then a few months later, on a particularly hectic day as I was cursing my busy life, the cross showed up in my car. It made me stop and remember what's truly important.
Even though he's gone I have no doubt that his spirit lives strongly among and within us.

Thank you, Mark, for the lessons you gave to your children and those they love.

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