Memorial for a young soul


A purpose of a memorial service is to remember. For most people, the event at the Moose Lake School gymnasium on Saturday will never be forgotten. This is the type of story a journalist never wants to write and last week I refused to address it. Following the memorial service, my head was so wrapped around the story of a wonderful 8-year-old that very little besides her story has been allowed into my thoughts. Although this is a story about a tragic accident and its unthinkable consequences, there remains a part of me that insists that something, any tiny little bit of a thing that we can call good, must somehow find its way into the life story of this little girl.

The days prior to the incident I found myself deeply immersed in a book called “The Children’s Blizzard,” the true story about a winter storm that suddenly swept throughout the Midwest. On the afternoon of January 12, 1888, just as school was letting out, a strong cold front rapidly moved down out of the northwest. In three minutes, the temperature had dropped 18 degrees and the accompanying windswept snow blew so intensely sideways that a child could literally not see their hands. This is a tale of tragedy, some heroism, but mostly unpreparedness for a storm that took so many young lives.

The tale of Gracelynn Rae Stadin is also a tale of tragedy and unpreparedness. For the communities of Kerrick, Moose Lake and surrounding towns, there never was, or never will be a way to prepare for the unthinkable. In an instant, many lives were irrevocably touched and changed.

At the memorial service before a packed Moose Lake gymnasium, Gracelynn’s second-grade classmates bravely marched to the front and sang a song for her called “Friends are Like Flowers.” If there was a dry seat in the house before her classmate’s tribute, there could not have been one after. Never before had “Amazing Grace” felt so appropriate. It seemed as though “Somewhere over the Rainbow” was written just for this special day.

I was there to hold my dad’s hand when he made his journey from the physical to the spirit world. I was also there for Mom. But they lived a full life into their 80s. Not to say I didn’t grieve, but death was as much a release for them as a sorrow. Not so when you are a vibrant 8-year-old girl loved by so many. If you didn’t know and love this girl before the service, you felt like you did afterward. Maybe there is a positive that came out of this. She united a community with the reflection of her life that was poignantly shown on the screen. A video showing the antics of a fun-loving, bouncing young girl was powerful enough to even bring a few chuckles to a very sober crowd. This young girl had the power to bring several law enforcement officials to a ceremony they also needed for closure.

May everyone involved with Gracelynn Rae Stadin’s life somehow find peace. A few days ago we were praying for this little girl. Although she was with us for such a short time, I, for one, will now be praying to this powerful soul.


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