Friday, May 18, 2012

A tragic loss

There has been lots going on around here, mostly good and happy things (including Emily's wedding and mother's day celebrations), but one thing happened on Tuesday that broke my heart.  My mom sent me a text message at work to call her office phone, which by the way mom, if you ever want to signal to me something bad happened - just send me that text because the minute I got it, I knew it was not good.  Once I called, she told me the sad news that great uncle SM True died Tuesday morning in a tragic accident on his farm when a piece of tractor equipment that he was working on fell on him.  He was just 88 years old.  And I say "just 88" because he was still so full of life and energy.  Honestly, he was one of the most amazing men I have ever been blessed have a part of my life.

What's been amazing to me in these last few days is to see that he not only made that impact on me and my family, but on so many people in this world and the impact he made on Texas Agriculture.  The evening that he died, the story was all over the evening news at the tragic loss and honoring his life.  They referred to him as "Mr. Texas Agriculture".  Even the Texas Governor Rick Perry commented on his death and recalled the wonderful times the two of them had together.  He was truly a wonderful man and seeing all these amazing stories and videos come out about his time here and the impact he made on agriculture, but more important on the people he touched in his life along the way makes me proud to have known him.

His funeral is Saturday in Plainview, TX...which is about an 11 hour drive from Kansas City.  My parents and sister plan on driving down there early Friday morning to arrive just in time for the visitation for him on Friday night, which I'm sure will be packed. My mom pretty much pulled the "mom card" on me and said I can absolutely not go because I would be miserable sitting in the car for that long on Friday and then turning around and driving 11 hours back on Sunday.  And she's right (not to mention the fact that I would probably just slow everyone down by having to stop like every five minutes to pee).  And after talking it over with Jimmy we decided we should not go.  But I'm so sad because I want to be there with my family and aunts and uncles and cousins and especially my grandma, who just lost her brother.  She is one of 8 kids, from West Texas, and now there are 2 of them grandma in Kansas City and my great uncle Riley, who also lives in Plainview.  I know that we all knew this time would come, as that is how the circle of life works....but no matter when and how it happens, it is just so hard to comprehend.  All the loved ones question how life will go on without that special person.  And SM was one special man.  I know it's always a matter of how and not when in dealing with death, but even in light of a tragic accident, he died doing something he loved: farming.  And that he was still out with his cattle and working on tractors when he was 88 years old shows his passion for farming, life and living life to the fullest and doing things that the loved surrounded by people that he loves.  And you know what, that's the best way to go.

My mom posted some wonderful pictures on facebook from the past, present and future that I wanted to share because he was such a special guy.

A navy pilot
In his younger days...
SM and Anna Jean on their wedding day

SM, Anna Jean and their young son David

SM, Anna Jean and their young son David (older in this picture)

Riley and SM
SM, brother Riley and their brother Carl I never got to meet

One thing if you have ever met or heard of SM, you know about his appearance on the Price is Right and winning this Thunderbird!  He still has it and his granddaughter, Larissa, and son, David, still own it!  It's a great car and so neat that it's still in the family!

SM and his famous Thunderbird!!
One thing that's funny to me about people in your life that you have always known as adults is that you don't realize when you are younger you don't realize that these people have jobs.  Right?  And they have lives and careers and major successes.  I would say I saw SM plenty throughout my life as a child growing up and he was always just the fun loving, funny and kind-hearted gentleman who loved spending time with family, loved Texas, God and always had a good sense of humor and knew how to lighten up a room.  He always was joking with people - especially once I started bringing Jimmy around to True family events.  But he was also an amazing business man when it came to Texas agriculture.  It's amazing to me that the death of this wonderful family man was all over the local Texas news the day of his accident and sense then the wonderful tributes, articles and reflections that have been written about him and his wonderful life he lived here on Earth.  SM was an excellent and knowledgeable farmer that also served on many boards and leadership councils.  He was also the president of Texas Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization for 11 years (the second longest president in the history) and had many accomplishments throughout that time there.  Their website has a few write ups on him, one from the current public relations director that worked with SM when he was the president they.  They are pretty neat to read and hear how he touched so many different lives.  (read here and here if interested).  His obituary does a wonderful job of documenting so many things he and his wife Anna Jean did in life and even talks about his sweet little dog, Jet, that he loved so dearly and was with him when he died.

Texas Farm Bureau also posted an amazing tribute video to SM on you tube that is him talking and it made me cry to hear his voice again.  What a great man he was.  In addition, the news had a wonderful article about his life that I have read many times.

Some other great pictures of him...

SM on the farm

Still up and traveling no matter how old he was!
He traveled all over Texas on behalf of agriculture and as a spokesperson on issues, but he was still traveling for fun and to visit family.  He made the trip, along with his son and daughter-in-law and his brother, Riley, up to Kansas City for our wedding in April of 2010 and I'm so happy he did.  I know Jimmy and I were talking about him and how much Jimmy's grandma just loved talking to both SM and Riley at our wedding and how blessed we are that he made that trip.  My mom had just told me on Monday night, after it was announced that our family reunion was canceled this June that they were planning on making a trip to Kansas City in August to visit everyone and see new little baby Carter.  I so wish that would have happened and our son could have met such an amazing man, but I know they will meet again someday a long time from now in heaven.

For some more recent pictures...

SM feeding the cows with my cousin Brett

SM, my grandmother Ona Belle and brother Riley

SM, my grandmother, Ben Setliff (brother in law of my gma), Margret (Riley's wife) and Riley

This might be my favorite.  One of my 2nd cousins posted this picture as her cover photo on facebook and I just thought it was so beautiful and such a wonderful picture of his life.

As I mentioned before, I'm so so so upset that we are not there with our family members to help honor this great man's life.  However, I do know that there will probably be more people there to help honor him than most 88 year old men.  SM, you were a great man.  So many people loved and respected you and I'm pretty sure you made a friend with everyone you met!  Thank you for leaving such a great legacy and you will always have a warm place in my heart and the heart of all those you touched!!  You will be greatly missed but I know there are lots of people who are happy to see you in heaven.

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