My husband’s Grandpa, a WWII vet and Iowa farmer, passed away this year just 20 hours short of his 99th birthday. After the funeral, I called my mom and we remarked upon the incredible life he lived, the things he would have seen and the dedication he had to his still-living wife of 75 years.
I told her, Craig feels lucky to have had his Grandpa this long since his Grandpa had undergone a quadruple bypass surgery in 1991 and still lived to be nearly 100. Then my mom told me something I’d never known about my own Grandpa Charlie—his life was extended by 10 years after a transplant surgery in which he received part of a pig heart.
Now, first you have to know, my Grandpa Charlie, a 6 foot, 8-inch-tall Irishman still remains my most loved family member. He could tell a story that would have you in absolute stitches and was a practical joker to boot. In fact, after he and my Grandma Lila married, he had a lawyer friend draw up a comedic contract declaring if she didn’t prepare him corned beef and cabbage every St. Patrick’s Day, it would dissolve their marriage. It’s framed and hung in their home for a laugh. And despite our somewhat confusing family tree, blood relation didn’t matter to him—you were family.
I’ve always had an appreciation for agriculture, and pork production is no exception. I like ham, bacon and a juicy chop. I also knew parts we don’t eat from pigs can be made into everyday things like shaving cream, soaps, home insulation and antifreeze. But I was absolutely floored by this revelation—I got a little more time with my Grandpa thanks to animal agriculture. It gave us a few more chuckles, a few more shared sips of whiskey, and he was able to meet Craig who would later become my husband.
I couldn’t think of a better way to acknowledge this story than during October Pork Month. Pig farmers are doing their best to raise food for our families to eat. But now, I know somewhere out there a farmer also helped raise a healthy animal that allowed a man with a heart of gold—combined with a heart of a pig—to spend time with his loved ones just a bit longer.
For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau's public relations specialist.