Family time is the greatest gift

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As I watched a friend struggling with one of life’s biggest goodbyes, taking her youngest to college, moving him into his dorm, I thought of how interesting life is for each one of us.

Life unwinds slowly. The days are long but the years are short, as the saying goes.

Emotion carries us along in ways that can be incredibly heart wrenching one day and exhilaratingly joyous the next.

God gave us tears for a reason, and sometimes the only way to push through a tough chapter of life is to let them flow.

Hard to face

I told my friend that no one prepares us for how hard it is, to put heart and soul into raising a child and then letting them go, but we also must be grateful for the health, drive, talent and strength born into each child.

Spreading their wings and taking flight is the greatest gift of all for a job well done. It hit me one day, as my own children were leaving home, that this is exactly what my dad tried to describe as his hardest chapter.

Even though I heard him at the time, and empathized with him, I didn’t have the awareness to fully get it. I was driving down the road when the realization struck with such force that I felt his pain and my own, so acute I had to pull over.

Dad taught us how to drive a tractor, check the fence, sight in a gun, wean piglets, hand-strip a heifer before treating her for mastitis, put up hay and later dismantle that hay mow correctly, pick rocks and check the crops.

Life lessons

We were taught by his example to respect the livestock and the wildlife, the barns, the history of each farm.

“Are you sure you closed the barn doors?” he would ask. It is one question each of us recalls, and it was born out of respect for the farmer who built the barn long before him. We spent every single day with a good man who took joy in being our dad.

“Then one day, you all grew up. It just about killed me,” he confided in me when my own kids were just babies.

“Enjoy every minute,” he advised with a sweetness that came from the heart. “While they are all under one roof at night will be the happiest days of your life.”

Simple moments

I was sitting on my daughter’s porch yesterday, rocking her sweet little baby boy to sleep, when my own mother stopped by. After we talked for a bit, she said she was leaving, “so you can go in and lay the baby down.”

I told her I planned to just enjoy cuddling the little fellow while he napped.

“You are wise to do that. In the blink of an eye he will be too big and too busy,” she said.

Diane Loomans wrote, “If I had my child to raise over again, I’d built self-esteem first and my house later. I’d finger paint more and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes. I would care to know less and know to care more. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging. I’d see the oak tree in the acorn. I would be firm less and affirm more. I’d model less about the love of power and more about the power of love.”

I’ve come to realize this is why people love being grandparents so much. Life flies by so fast, and we gain wisdom in that realization as it unfolds for each of us.

Living in the moment, a baby breathing deeply as he sleeps against me is one of life’s sweetest — and most fleeting — gifts of all.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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