Life got in the way this week, so this post is not about connecting educators and entrepreneurs in conversations that enhance learning. This is about my life and my family. This is to heal my heart. More to come next week…
My heart is heavy as I stand here. My heart is beating fast and hard; my palms are sweaty, but my voice is strong. I am so honored to have this opportunity to capture Jon’s spirit and celebrate his life with my words. Dear God, please bless all of us gathered today in sadness and stand with me so that I may have the strength to get through this and through my words inspire everyone to love life like Jon.
Jon Loved Living
Jon truly loved living. He was the life of the party…every party which is obvious from the number of snapchat photos saved through a screen shot on each of your phones. Hang on to those. It is obvious from the sheer volume of stories exchanged in the past few days. Write those down on paper sometime soon! It is obvious from the number of you gathered here today to celebrate his life. Jon went through life with a smile on his face. You could tell just how excited he was by his giggle and the pitch of his voice. The more excited he was the higher it went. I can relate; mine does the same thing, and Chad, my husband, fondly refers to it as my “Grandma Judy voice”. I bet there are a few more Riley’s who have the Grandma Judy voice too. You may have heard it last weekend in Belmont. The Riley’s, all of us, gathered to celebrate Grandma Judy’s birthday in true Riley fashion. Together, we ate and drank and talked and laughed. Grandma tried to shut the party down a few times, but on the last call, someone said, “Order two.” and so…the party continued, and Jon…giggled.
He loved his kids
Another opportunity to hear Jon giggle came around each year at the Earl Riley Memorial Pool Tournament. This is always a very fun but also very sentimental occasion for the family but especially Jon. Each year we prayed for those closest to us to win, but more importantly, it was during these tournaments that Jon NEVER missed an opportunity to tell each one of us how much he loved us. He would tell us how great of a man Grandpa Earl was, and he would tell me each year he missed my mom. I knew I could re-direct his sentimental soul with a positive word about one of his kids. He was so proud of them. Truth be told…his kids are absolutely the most amazing kids (and now adults) I have ever known. I’m not gonna lie– I asked him many times how he ended up with such amazing kids. He’d beam from ear to ear and then he’d giggle and say, “Well Cheryl may have had something to do with it.” He loved Cheryl too. He knew she’d take care of him and he came to know he may have deserved her raised eyebrows most of the time.
An Accomplished Farmer
It was talking with Cheryl and the kids, I finally found the right words and perfect transition for the next part. You see, I wanted to talk about the farm, his passion, his purpose. Cheryl told me when Jon was in high school, he was asked what he wanted to do with his life, and he always said, “I want to be an accomplished farmer.” Jon was 19 years old when Grandpa Earl died, and becoming an “accomplished farmer” took on a whole new meaning. Having lost my mom when I was 13 and wanting so badly to make her proud, I can relate to the pressure Jon and Jeff likely felt. I’m sure when you see me, you see my mom, and you can’t possibly look at Jon without seeing Grandpa Earl. But, in true Riley fashion, we continue to live and live life to the fullest. Together, Jon and Jeff run 4000 acres of crop ground, 1500 acres of pasture. They have the largest registered herd of angus in the state. The 2015 number 1 semon selling Angus bull, Tour of Duty, was raised on their farm. Riley Brothers Angus bloodlines can be found across the United States and the world. Jon was also very proud of winning the Wisconsin Soybean yield contest. He entered the contest with 91.5 bushels per acre which was enough to send him to the national level and the winner will be announced in March. He wanted 95 bushels per acre next year.
Jon, you did it buddy, you became an accomplished farmer, and through that accomplishment, you became an accomplished father too. Your children will learn from your struggles, your work ethic, your drive, your hidden intelligence, and your leadership. I’m sure Grandpa Earl would be proud of you which I know was always in the back of your mind, but more importantly, Cheryl, Josh, Ashley, Jordan, and Livie are proud of you too.
In a little while, we’ll gather at the farm. We’ll eat and drink and talk and laugh. We’ll imitate your giggle until we regain the strength to giggle on our own. God bless you Jon!