Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Tribute to a Beautiful Life

Large animal veterinarians have a tendency to develop unique friendships with our clients, in many instances crossing the divide between friend and professional relationship. We usually visit at least once a month, converse about the farm, family, and friends, and sprinkle in gossip, politics, and religion for good measure. We develop a close bond. But nothing prepares you for the sudden and dramatic loss of that friend.

Farming has significant risks and dangers. (I have scars to prove it.) With a practice of over 300 clients, we see lives affected by farming accidents on an annual basis. But nothing prepared me for the sudden loss of one of my clients to a farming accident. On Wednesday, January 19th, I lost a client and a friend. Rodney Hawbaker was only 44 years old, leaving behind his wife, Karen, and two children, Owen and Kirsten, whom I worked with in our local 4-H club. He had a thirst for life, a life guided by his relationship with Christ.

If I could simply describe Rod, I could use a seven-letter sentence, "He got it." He lived a life of service, was accountable to his fellow man, and was always available to help a friend in need. After reading this post, I think you will realize what "it" is. First, I want to start with a story.

About two years ago, Rod became actively involved with missionary work focusing on impoverished children in Bolivia. Integral to the mission was providing a solid foundation for a Bolivian orphanage by constructing a dairy intended to provide food and income. Rod told me that he was donating 15 heifers to a sale in order to provide financial support for the project. My eyes bugged out of head, because he was donating 15 "income generators" during a severe economic downturn in the dairy industry. I argued that he needed the money, but Rod would not budge. It was clear that Rod was focused on providing hope for the children. Still focused on his business, I recommended that he keep tabs on his donations for tax purposes. Rod was quick to respond that due to the economic downturn, a tax write-off would not be necessary this year.

"He got it."

Clearly, I did not "get it" yet.

In addition to his financial donations, Rod donated his time and inexhaustible energy. Approximately every 3-4 months, Rod and his family would visit the orphanage, aiding the children and providing labor for the dairy's construction.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Sir Winston Churchill

Rod knew his purpose in life. Have we realized our life purpose? "He got it." He used his dairy farm, the fruits of his labor, to fulfill a greater purpose and passion - to grow a beautiful faith-based, close-knit family, to spread the word of Christ, and to provide hope for the impoverished children of Bolivia. His life was cut short, but during his short life, he was able to touch the lives of so many. May we be so fortunate to find "it" before we leave this world.

Rod and I had a scheduled appointment on January 19th. I'm sure we would have talked about the farm and cow management issues. Likely, we would have mused over stories about our family and his future trip to Bolivia. And we would have thrown in a discussion on politics for good measure. But he had another appointment he simply could not miss, an appointment so important to him that his entire life was spent preparing.

I will leave you with a few passages:

2 Corinthians 9:7
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Luke 6:38
"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Acts 20:35
"In everything that I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: "'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"


  1. THis is absolutely beautiful and truly heartfelt.

  2. Thanks for sharing this today at Rod's funeral.

    A cousin

  3. Very touching, thanks for sharing. Love the blog!