Earlier this summer, I visited my parents in South Dakota. We usually go out to the farm and visit relatives along the way. Visiting our mostly vacant farm still stirs an emotion of what was once there and what remains in our hearts.
Part of our tour took us to the graveyard in Bowdle, visiting where my grandparents are buried and my Mom’s sister and family. We went on to Java to also visit where my great grandparents are buried. Family tours sometimes take on the living and the dead. They are good reminders to the work done before us and the life stage set for where we are today.
Time passes quickly, and we need to determine what a life well lived means. We get cluttered up and miss the simplicity of what may really matter most.
Between Bowdle and Java, a flowing prairie offers an expansive, timeless view. A hundred years ago, there were many more farms dotting the landscape. Time has consolidated.
A Life Time
Times have changed. I doubt my great grandparents thought much about a life theme or meaning back then. Their focus was centered on raising a family, working the land, and sharing with a community. A simpler time.
Working on a farm connected a lot together into one large bale of life. Many strands rolled together — work, family, community, and life. Today, our lives happen in compartments. We treat life as drawers in a chest, pulling one out and then another. We open our work drawer, close it, and then open our family drawer.
Life was meant to be connected.
Two Principles for Life
In looking at the St. Paul Lutheran cemetery in the middle of flatness, it brings to life these two simple principles:
- What you do in your present matters.
- What you pass forward matters.
If we keep these two life principles in mind, we will do just fine.
On farms, people are present. Family is always there; we eat and play together. Work is present, daily chores to do. Making things better is present. Solving problems happens daily, fixing things broken.
And then there is what is passed forward. For farmers, putting in a good day’s work, keeping your family involved, and giving back to the land and community are all things passed forward. Building a foundation for the next generation to take forward and do the same just happens naturally.
For farmers, it is a plant-harvest life cycle. The horizon is the future, and the future is what they work toward through their family and community. Growth happens in much more than just crops; future generations are grown.
We need to be fully present in where we live, and we need to do and say things others will pull forward in a positive way. And the next generation up needs to continue to build and embrace the two simple principles of a live well lived.
A Life Well Lived
Stripping away all the clutter to our thoughts and actions bares the core to nurture and grow.
Being present translates into many things, depending on what your “present” looks and feels like. At the core, family, friends, and community are right in front and demand us to do more than pass by. The responsibility is to listen, engage, dig-in, plant, harvest, laugh, cry, act. Our responsibility is a mix of emotions and work and play. Being present matters.
What we pass forward contains a mix. There are tangible things like wealth, land, and whatever possessions we have. The bigger impact items are traits and examples. Words carry forward, spoken and unspoken. Actions, done and undone, echo. Our mission should be to pass forward far more good things than bad. Otherwise, the next in line will spend most of their time trying to re-live the past, getting bogged down in what should or could have been. What you pass forward matters.
As I looked across that cemetery on the prairie, I didn’t see what ended. Instead I saw what had been done to enable me to stand there now. I didn’t see blocks of stone with names on each. Instead I saw books with deep, meaningful stories and sacrifices lived.
Was there pain present in their day? Yes. Were there laughs and moments of joy? Of course. Was hard work done? Every day. Each were present in the circumstances that came their way, and most worked through them in the best way possible.
Cemeteries are where stories continue. I didn’t visit a cemetery. What I visited was a library. Across that prairie, I saw books lined up on a shelf. Each contains a story of a life lived. Embedded in us is a part of that story. We learn, understand, and then continue to develop it. Now it is our turn to be fully present and work to pass forward things that matter for the next. It is our time to simply live our life well.
What simple life principles keep you centered to live well?