The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.


Farm Family Insights: by Natalie Dowell Schmitt

Being Present

My mind has been a jumble of thoughts and ideas for this week's article. There is so much to say, and yet, I struggle to find the right words and images. In five days, we lost our daughter-in-law, my uncle and my younger sister. John and Nancy's deaths were blessings for they were struggling with health issues. The death of Sara was unexpected, shocking and tragic for someone so young. We have all been in a daze and dealing with grief in our own ways.

Never have I been so thankful for the routine of milking and chores. We are up to 50 head and have hit a break in our calving schedule for a few weeks. Perfect timing to put up fourth crop hay and chop dry land corn silage. As we work our way down the barn, the pulsators keep a steady beat to the silence as we travel through our thoughts and memories, stopping to enjoy a moment never to happen again, but thankful for the memory. An occasional deep exhale signals another step on our journey to healing.

My mantra this year is, "Be present in the moment." My image of this goal was to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets with more purpose and awe. To savor time playing with our grandchildren in laughter, tickles and giggles. To treasure having family gathered around a table together. I have since discovered it also means to stand in silence and just wait, to pause and be present. While I'm celebrating the joys, my mind wants to linger and stay put. While I'm in the middle of grief and sorrow, my mind wants to race or skip through this section and start working on the next step, asking questions that need answers – anything that will move me out of the present moment. Kind of like skipping liver and onions for dinner and heading straight for the peach pie for dessert. I'm discovering I don't need to camp out in sorrow and sadness, but that I must linger and be present for the moment before I move forward. For when we come out on the other side of this long, dark valley, we can celebrate the joys of life and the special moments with a renewed appetite.

For some reason, I've been thinking about Noah's Ark quite a bit lately. It certainly isn't because we have had so much extra rain. We all know Noah survived 40 days and 40 nights of rain, but we forget that isn't the end of the story. Once the rains stop, Noah had to wait for the waters to recede revealing dry land once again. There was no rushing through this process or journey. Noah just had to wait and be present. When it was all over, God promised Noah to never flood the world again. A sign of his promise was a rainbow.

Warm, soft gentle rains have finally found our farm in the past few days. A little late for the crops but much needed to restore the land and our souls. I mix and fill the calf bottles outside in the rain. Out of the blue, a tidal wave of emotions and tears roll over me, catching me off guard. Tears and rain drops drip off my chin. Then as quickly as it came, it subsides and I find myself drifting between sorrow and glimpses of joy in the blessings of having these special people in our family.

As I pull my wagon filled with calf bottles and grain to the domes, I realize it has stopped raining. I look back to the barn and lose it. Here, a perfectly full and bright rainbow touching down just behind the barn arching to the back side of the house where we hosted Michael and Sara's wedding rehearsal dinner two years ago; two places where Sara left her heart.

The outpouring of prayers these last few weeks have surrounded us like a family quilt on a snowy day – full of comfort, warmth and love. I don't know where I found this interpretation of a prayer, but it has hit close to home. "Prayer doesn't only happen when we kneel or put our hands together focusing on things we expect from God. Prayers are thinking positive and wishing good for others. When you hug a friend. That's a prayer. When you cook something to nourish family and friends. That's a prayer. When we send off our loved ones saying, ‘Drive safely,' or, ‘Be safe,' that is a prayer. When we forgive someone that is prayer. Prayer is a vibration, a feeling, a thought, an action. Prayer is the voice of love, friendship and genuine relationships. Prayers are an expression of our silent being. Keep praying always."

Thank you for all of your prayers and hugs for our families. We are so blessed to be present in this moment together.


As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.