For those of you Farm Bleat readers who also read the Daily Globe, today’s edition features a story about Andrea Ruesch, a former Worthingtonian who died suddenly on Sunday at the age of 37. She was two years younger than me … graduated with my younger brother, in fact.
Like everyone who knew her, I struggle to understand why something like this happens. She was too young to die. She had too much to look forward to. She had great things yet to accomplish.
Why? Why now?
As I was talking to my Mom last night over the telephone, I believe I asked that very question. Mom reminded me of a time, not so long ago, when a cousin of mine lost his wife to cancer and was left to raise their three young children. Why did she have to die? As Christians, we tell ourselves that God simply needed them in Heaven for something so much more special. Still, I have trouble trying to understand something like this. I guess that makes me human.
I don’t want this to be a sad blog post, even though the tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I want to tell you about the Andrea I will always remember.
Andrea and I grew up in the Nobles County 4-H program. She was a member of the Lorain Livewires, and I was an Ocheda Beaver. We served together as county 4-H Ambassadors, we showed livestock and poultry at the State Fair, we represented the county at the state-wide Junior Leadership Conference (JLC) and traveled together on Citizenship Washington Focus and the 4-H Interstate Exchange program between Nobles County and Shenandoah County, Va.
We even had the same dream of becoming 4-H Extension agents some day. Her dream came true. Mine didn’t. She helped the children of southwest Minnesota grow into confident leaders, whereas it’s been part of my job to share with readers the wonderful stories of 4-H and its impact on our youths.
Andrea, well … she was the perfect fit for the 4-H program. For as far back as I can remember, she never once hesitated to get up in front of a group and be her silly little self. I still smile when I think of the times she was in charge of recreation at a 4-H Federation meeting and went to the front of the room to start us out in a silly song of "Hi, my name is Joe … and I work in a button factory. The other day, my boss came up to me, and he said, ‘Hi Joe, are you busy?’ and I said, ‘No.’"
The song is filled with actions that many in the 4-H world may still be able to act out today. Andrea had the actions down pat.
I think her favorite 4-H song was Singin’ in the Rain, and watching her sing and act it out, well, it just made us all laugh.
Actually, my favorite memory of Andrea is about her and her ducks that she showed at the Nobles County Fair.
Andrea’s ducks were always so clean … and there is a good story behind it.
We were competitors in the poultry show … more so in the showmanship contest. I showed turkeys and chickens, Andrea showed her ducks … and she was determined that they be the cleanest, shiniest ducks in the pen.
One year, as we were working to get our birds ready for the show, Andrea pulled out a toothbrush and started to tell us about how she brushed her ducks’ teeth. Her eyes lit up and a smile filled her face as she held a duck firmly in her arms and coaxed its bill open with the toothbrush.
It was the funniest thing I had ever seen.
I was sharing that story with my editor Monday afternoon and he asked me who won the showmanship contest that year. You know, I can’t recall. It seems to me the trophy usually went to the Ruesch clan, whether it was Andrea or one of her siblings.
Oftentimes I ponder just what I was meant to do here on Earth. Am I doing as God intended? Am I making a difference in the lives of others?
There are many days when I can’t answer those questions.
But Andrea … well, I know Andrea made a difference. She made a difference in the lives of young kids and had a knack for making people smile. She was one of the most positive-thinking people I knew, and I know she will be greatly missed.