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A photograph in the newspaper shared a devastating, private moment: a daughter wiping away the tears of her father as he lay intubated in the intensive care unit.

She is a nurse at the hospital, able to get dressed in protective gear, visit her father and report back to her family outside.

I saw the photo and, at first, couldn't even bear to read the story. When I finally braced myself, I realized that I knew about the man through a conversation I had at work.

He started working at a specific place at age 17 and has worked there ever since. He is 68.

A week before, I interviewed a local business leader, a fourth-generation farmer and a chile processor. He talked about agricultural innovation and how he advises budding agricultural entrepreneurs to think hard about what success looks like for them.

It could look different for every person, and it might be clouded now that our society has turned to social media to help define success through the success showed off by others. The owner wanted to give me a different example.

He said there was a man who worked for his company for more than 40 years. That employee had come from Mexico and worked, rain or shine, with extreme loyalty to the company, for years, even before the owner had taken the reins from his father.

The worker put his kids through school. He owned his home.

In time, he would take a week off for a short vacation, usually to visit the family that had moved farther away.

All those things defined success for him, and that success shined high enough in the owner's mind that he used the worker as an example for me and those who might create businesses in the future.

The man in the ICU has nine children. The nurse who visits when she can during the workday is the fourth oldest.

Other photos showed his wife of 47 years peering into her husband's window, huddled by the window and covered in thick blankets, and his family radiating out from behind her. Some of their heads were bowed in prayer, and some were on their knees.

He was the sun they all followed from when the hospital window blinds opened in the morning to when they closed at night.

It seemed so unfair for this man with a life full of success, I said to my husband, to be where he is. Shouldn't he be home spending his time with his grandbabies?

"Death comes to all of us," my husband said.

"He made his children productive members of society, and he helped build the privilege of having his daughter able to be there in his time of need because of the work he did in the world. There's beauty and honor in that."

While that thought was a temporary balm for my soul, along with the light the businessman was able to shine to me through a conversation about his success, I thought more about what kinds of other lights this disease is snuffing out — unfairly, even if death comes to us all. The pages of newspaper obituaries around the country keep increasing.

For now, all I can do is say a prayer for the worker, who might not even know where his light shined, and hope for more light after all this darkness.

Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma (sorry, Cassie) and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at


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