Sometimes I find the most inspiring stories about people in the Obituaries section of the newspaper. Currently, my favorite obituary writer is Sam Roberts from The New York Times. I admire Mr. Roberts’ ability to capture the essence of a person’s life so well, in the same way that a portrait painter can sometimes capture a person’s soul on canvas. Recently, I read his beautiful obituary for Craig Ramini, who was only 57 when he died of complication of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Mr. Ramini was 52 when he found his passion. He was a Silicon Valley software consultant when he found himself in a midlife crisis. Quoted in Mr. Roberts’ obituary, his wife said: “He took a year off and started reading a lot of books and doing a lot of reflecting about what really made him happy.”
This is what I learned Craig Ramini did to find his passion:
For six months, he methodically affixed Post-its to his dining room wall listing his passions. Then he narrowed them down to five:
Being around animals;
Working with food;
Doing something unique and entrepreneur.
For Craig Ramini, this added up to cheese! Not just any cheese. Mozzarella di bufala. But he knew nothing about cheese-making. He had never even milked a cow. But this did not stop him. He bought five water buffalo, leased a deserted 25-acre dairy near Tomales (near San Francisco), was tutored by two families from Italy, and recruited a Sicilian coach. Eventually he and his wife, Audrey Hitchcock, had a herd of 41 buffalo and were able to produce 65 pounds of cheese a week, which they sold for $30 a pound. It didn’t go smoothly from the start. In his inaugural year – 2012 – two-thirds of the 1,500 pounds he made was offered to a pig farmer, sometimes in exchange for eggs and produce.
But he prevailed. And the delicious cheese came.
One chef said, “Their cheese tastes as fresh as the grazing fields of West Marin, and each ball feels like the loving hands that shaped it.” She added, “You can taste the love.”
Ms. Hitchcock said that whenever she or Craig were asked if they had children, they’d answer, “Yes, 41 water buffalo, because we love them as if they were our children.”
Reading Craig Ramini’s obituary made my heart both happy and sad. He found his passion and happiness! But he didn’t get to enjoy his passion for long enough! Then I read that he used to quote a line from one of his favorite movies Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
That’s why I read Sam Roberts’ obituaries. He reminds me that our lives our stories. And that I should check-in regularly to make sure I am living the story I want to be living. If it means putting on a helmet so that I can do the thing I’m afraid to do but want to do, I will put on a helmet.