It's amazing that someone who you haven't really seen in years can have a profound impact on your life. We spent the evening at the Ag Expo 4-H Market Sale. We go every year and most years we buy an animal--completing the circle. For eleven years, I led my 4-H projects around that ring hoping to garner enough money to pad my savings account. Luckily for me, I had the long term support of many businesspeople in the community. They never let me down.
This year was different. The evening seemed to begin like every other year, the bleachers scattered with people, just as many lined up in their assigned position in their lawn chairs, and even more standing on the perimeter. Walking around takes me back to life before we were so busy with work, when we could easily go spend the evenings and several days during Ag Expo just sitting and talking with our friends who we only saw a few times a year. As the parade of market animals progressed to the swine, the true spirit of 4-H and the fair became apparent.
As is customary, the Grand Champion, Reserve Grand Champion, and the Champion Pair were sold first but they were followed by three of the most special hogs ever to be sold in that ring. They weren't the champions, two wouldn't have even made weight but they were the best animals there because they were Gene's. Gene Wiles died earlier this summer after an atv accident. In his short life, he made an impact on everyone he met. While in high school, I worked for Gene's grandparents on their farm. After college, I was active in Young Farmers with Gene's parents. Since working at the battery business though, we had lost touch to a large degree.
Even without seeing them for a long time, Gene's death left a hole in my heart. On some level I don't feel worthy of grief. I can't understand what this time is like for those who were closest to him. I feel so deeply for the whole family's loss. When I think of him, I think of "Mean Gene" the chubby little boy that I knew when he was little. Even then he was funny. Sitting on the bleachers bidding on that hog this evening I couldn't help but cry. I just can't imagine losing my child.
Gene's blessing is his family's faith. I am deeply impressed by his parents and grandparents and will always be. I pray that his legacy will be just one person learning of and accepting the gift of salvation because of this family. The true spirit of 4-H and the fair is the family that it creates. It doesn't matter if the only time you see these people is that one week each year, they are all a family that supports each other, no matter what.