Author’s note: this post was written with permission from the Sontag family.
The saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” never rang more true than it did on May 4.
You see, we lost a beloved member of our family in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences here at River Falls. Bobby Sontag of Shafer, Minnesota was a junior majoring in dairy science. Like every dairy science major and most CAFES students, he loved cows and everything about them. After graduation he wanted to buy a farm with his sister Sara.
There’s something about death that catches us off guard and forces us to put our lives on pause for a bit. Especially when a story, like Bobby’s, ends all too soon. We’re forced to evaluate the choices we make. Each of us gets a certain amount of time on Earth before God calls us home. Sadly, some of us don’t get as much time as others.
Bobby was unique. He had a personality as big as Texas and a smile even bigger. He had a twinkle of mischief in his eye and was rarely seen, or heard, not laughing. Bobby’s trademark grin lightened the mood of every room he walked into. What made Bobby special was how he treated people. His heart was even bigger than his personality. It didn’t matter if you were his best friend or if he didn’t know you from Adam; he treated you with the same kindness. It didn’t matter where he was or who he was with, you knew who he was and that good times were coming. With his larger-than-life personality, standing out from the crowd came naturally to him. He embraced it fully, living life to every last drop.
That’s something we all can learn from Bobby.
In our allotted time we should do everything we can to touch the lives of others. Hold doors open for little old ladies and pay it forward. Go on as many adventures as possible. You can always make money, but you can’t always make memories. Let go of grudges and grievances, for they are temporary and small when held up against the big picture. Maintain old friendships. Hold your family, your children and your significant others a little tighter. Say “I love you” more often, and mean it, because you may never get another chance to say it and they may never get another chance to hear it.
Not knowing what you have until it’s all gone not only applies to the loss of a loved one, but life in general. Time is precious. Cherish everything you know, everything you learn, everything you feel, and everyone you love…because you never know when all of those things can be taken from you.
In the days that followed Bobby’s death, I was reminded and amazed at just how close-knit the agriculture community is. We’re not just an industry, but a family, and families look out for each other. When tragedy strikes someone we know, we roll up our sleeves and come to the door with a hot dish and a hug. We put our differences and worries aside to heal those who are hurting. We wept together at the loss of our friend. We prayed together, and asked God to help us all come to terms with Bobby’s passing. But, most remarkably, we smiled and laughed together over all the memories we had with Bobby…and that’s what he would have wanted.