Finding and Creating Community - Catholic Rural Life

Finding and Creating Community

Duane Short • November 5, 2018


My mother passed away in March of this year. She was almost 92 and had lived a full life. I was able to share some words at her funeral regarding community. Community applies to not only humans; but also to animals, plants, planets, and galaxies. All of creation is part of multiple communities.

To set some background, my Father passed away two weeks after I had turned four years old. Mom instantly became a single parent to three sons, aged 4, 11, and 15 and a daughter 13. As you will see below, communities saved us and made us who we are today.

Mom was saying more and more the past few years how we raised each other after Dad passed away. The other three were off on their own adventures in a few short years, so it really was just Mom and I for several years, so there is a bit of truth to Mom’s statement.

However, this did not occur in a vacuum. As I looked around at the visitation, and again at the funeral, I saw the faces of the communities that took us in, that wrapped us in their arms, that loved us and supported us through rough times.

I think of my family communities, of my uncles helping Mom to manage the livestock and the outstanding obligations. I see Uncle Bud, who gave up his teaching and coaching career to come back and farm for Mom, his sister. I think of staying with family friends so Mom could travel. I think of the times when aunts and uncles on both sides were there for us and supported us. I think of my Grandpa and Grandma taking us on trips. Moving Aunt Jean and Uncle Jon to Wyoming and continuing to the Rocky Mountains where I promptly got car sick in the back seat of the prized Buick while ascending Pikes Peak. Of fishing trip to Lake of the Woods where we stopped to see cousin Gina in Duluth and got to exhibit my early cartography skills navigating that same Buick through Winnipeg’s highways and streets.

I think of the neighborhood community that helped with the field work and getting the crops planted because Bud could not return until later. I think of our Church community that showed us what Jesus meant in the gospels of a living, loving and supportive church, taking care of the widows and families.

Now we are at another turning point in our lives. Many of those same people were there for us again at her visitation and funeral, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. But we were fortunate to be able to add two new communities to our community of communities. When Mom and Harry got married, none of us quite knew what to expect. We were way too old to be the Brady Bunch, and I didn’t really want to see Dennis (brother) and Gene (step-brother) fight for the role of Greg, but we knew as the song says that we needed to come together for the sake of Mom and Harry, who were so good for each other. So, it took some time, we had to feel each other out, play some cat and mouse, but we did come together as a family. Not the Brady Bunch, but our version of it, and we even came to like each other in the end.

Finally, as Mom’s health deteriorated, we found the Life and Health family community. They were there for Mom when we couldn’t be. They allowed Mom to finish life on her terms, and we are ever so grateful.

So, what is the next step? For my daughters, nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephew; and others in that generation, this is my hope for you. The world is changing at light speeds. You have just heard how communities have supported us and made us who we are today, and frankly saved us. Go find your communities, go create your communities. Technology may change how communities are created and built, but the community is the backbone of civilization. The early church was groups of small communities caring for each other and looking out for each other. Can we duplicate that? Let’s take what we have learned from my Mom, let’s take that great example she showed us, take that love and compassion and go into the world. That is the legacy I wish for my Mom.

–Duane Short is a lifelong agriculturist and Master degree student. He and his family live in Hamilton County, Iowa.

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