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Editorial: Lessons from Dad

by Josh Kramer

June is for dads. And I hope you all celebrated moms last month, too. Really, we should celebrate and be thankful for our dear friends, caring families and good neighbors every day. We never know which conversation might be our last.

This Father’s Day will be a bit somber for me personally. A few weeks back, my dad passed away unexpectedly, in his sleep at the young age of 59. Even in death, Dad has provided me lessons. Forgive me for using the remainder of this space to honor my dad and reflect on what I have learned.

My dad lived his entire life on co-op lines and grew up on the same farm on which he died. This place was home. He enjoyed farming, cattle, and the great views and peace the farm provided. He took great pride in making sure the farm was always well-kept, the garden meticulously maintained, and everyone felt welcomed. With the beer cooler stocked and burgers at the ready, he loved having people visit. Although a man of few words, the words he did speak were often colorful, the punchline of his jokes usually delivered in German. There were many late-night get-togethers, normally with the same cast of local characters, laughs and stories retold.

The days I spent at the farm leading up to the funeral were reminders of the goodness in people. Even in these uncertain times, people found ways to reach out and show support for my family. The calls, cards, food and prayers were overwhelming. Neighbors I hadn’t seen for years stopped to share condolences, and the locals already mentioned went out of their way to tell those stories once again. People I hardly knew even reached out to share how my dad helped them during a time of need.

My dad had a simple take on life: If you are able to help, that’s what you do. You help.

Now, for the lessons I’ve learned.

• I am going to be better. Before, I would express my condolences, but shy away from bringing up a name or memory, assuming that my grieving friend preferred not to be reminded of their loss. I’ve learned it to be just the opposite. I find peace and joy in shared stories and memories of my dad. It is the part that carries on.

• Have the conversation. Don’t put off important conversations for another day. I can tell you there are dozens of questions, things I wish I’d said, or things I’d like to know. Some simple, some deep, but all important. Regrettably, the chance to talk has passed.

• Tell loved ones what they mean to you and make the most of the time you have.

Thanks for indulging me. I know this editorial has nothing to do with co-ops or the electric business. But maybe our members and readers will find it a relatable story, in capturing the qualities that define rural life and the human spirit, the value we hold for friends, family and neighbors, and the acknowledgement that we can all make an impact.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven, Dad.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at