Hold your loved ones close


“Oh, for boys with strength….and wit and intellect to match. Boys who know the names of wildflowers in the meadows and frequently pick you bouquets. Boys who can locate the constellations in the galaxy; can distinguish from a distance an eagle from a hawk; can tell the time by raising their eyes to the sky.”

— Bettie Youngs, Values From The Heartland

We have been blessed, through our children and their friendships, with connections to some amazing people.

One young man stood out in so many ways it is difficult to put into words. Nate Shafer was fun and funny, a country boy with stories to tell, and a joy to be near.

No matter the size of the gathering, Nate never once visited our farm without hunting up my hubby and I to talk to us for a bit and thank us for having him. And he often brought freshly-baked cookies, a nod to how well his parents raised him.

Nate loved tractors, trucks and red farm equipment from the time he was old enough to turn wheels. With an older sister and brother, he wanted to keep up and accomplish big things along with them.

He was an engineer by profession, but a farmer and master mechanic in his bones. He loved tractor pulling, woodworking and turning a stranger into a friend, and he cherished his longtime friendships.

Most of all, Nate was a loving husband and father who made every day sparkle for his sweet wife, Kara, toddler baby boy Wyatt and 4-year-old daughter Abigail.

Our community, and the family who treasured him, lost a remarkable, giving and gifted young man this past week. An afternoon working in the woods with his beloved big brother at his family’s farm turned tragic in the blink of an eye.

This immeasurable loss for such an impressive family brings crushing heartache. Every moment spent with this handsome, happy-hearted guy was an uplifting one. Nate was generously willing to share his knowledge and his gifted hunches to help others, with anything mechanical proving a challenge he wanted to help solve.

His sweet wife learned patience very early on, knowing he would be home when an issue for a neighbor or friend was resolved to his satisfaction.

Nate was one of a kind, with a giving heart and a happy soul. His smile was beautifully infectious, and every picture I have of him here on our farm shines with his joyful presence. He was a generous guest, offering to help with anything, and having him around made any bad day a whole lot better. Stories around a fire at the end of a day were stellar with Nate in the circle.

Pictures of Nate with buddy Mark Grassman are especially poignant. Mark was laid to rest last year after suffering a massive heart attack, just days after celebrating his 36th birthday. We cried together, and I remember comforting Nate at the cemetery that day, telling him to focus on the baby he and Kara were about to bring into the world; Mark had been so excited for them.

Nate, too, had just turned 36 a matter of days before this accident.

Hold the ones you love close, tell them what they mean in your life. Saying goodbye is something our human nature fools us into believing is such a long way off. It can come on any given sunny day, far out of order from what we feel certain is destined.


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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, and three grandchildren.


  1. Thank you for your well-written tribute to Nate. Brought back so many memories of his smile and laughter in the classroom. Blessings!Be!


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