Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Memories for Memorial weekend

Wick's World


Memorial Day weekend is the first major holiday of the summer. I thank my friend Bart for always remembering to place flowers on the graves of my mom and dad who are now resting on top of the hill overlooking the Missouri River in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

I remember Otis, the comforting Bichon-poo who sat on my lap through my recovery from a broken sternum and fractured vertebra. Otis played nursemaid to me for two years. I finally recovered, but Otis died shortly thereafter.

A medicine man with whom I studied for 20 years wrote about animals in his book “The Smell of Rain on Dust.” Ever since the first wolves came to sit by the human’s fire, dogs did indeed become man’s best friend. They are now so attuned to the human they will sacrifice their life for you. Stories abound of heroism from dogs in law enforcement and the military where dogs will risk their lives daily to save humans. What most of us don’t realize is that a dog will sacrifice their life by taking on our illnesses and injuries so that we may heal. There is a cost to this. It shortens their lives, as it may have done with Otis.

A few weeks ago I wrote a story about the dogs in my life. Somehow, Otis unintentionally became the focus of my column. After I finished writing the story, my neighbor came by and began to share some memories about Otis out of the blue. Then, when I arrived back in Eagan, my wife asked if I knew Otis had died four years ago that day. No I hadn’t known, but from what I learned from my teacher about animals, I certainly wasn’t surprised.

I would also like to memorialize my best friend from high school, Richard Pickner who died at 19. I remember a great friend from the Black Hills, Allen Kapust, who also died way too soon. A week after Allen’s passing my wife’s cousin Jeannine died over the Memorial weekend, also at a young age. After her ceremony we were holding her miniature poodle when a family member asked if we would be willing to take Mae. My wife and I locked eyes only for a second before we capitulated. Perhaps since she was the caretaker of a dying cancer patient, Mae is the most loving animal we have ever known.

I remember Matt Milczark and Moises Langhorst, the young Marines who went off to war following their graduation from Moose Lake High School. They never returned. My son’s Super Bowl ritual of gathering to watch the game with Matt, Moy, and several other young men from the class of 2003 no longer happens. Matt and Moy disappeared from our lives much too soon but they will always live on in our memories.

One of my best friend’s brothers, Dale Wayrynen, will live forever in the collective memory of thousands of Americans. As a young soldier serving in Vietnam, the paratrooper jumped on a live grenade and saved the lives of his squad members. For this heroic action, Dale was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was buried on Memorial Day, May 30, 1967.

One of the most profound lessons I learned from my teacher, the Dog Whisperer, is that the ones who leave us “much too soon” are generally very old souls whose sole purpose in life is to teach us a profound life lesson and then quickly disappear. These souls may leave us in sorrow on this earth but they remain etched in our memory forever.

We are often gifted in life by the loved ones we just lost. We are also sometimes gifted in that person's death. I remember two of these people. I fell in love with them after they had departed this earth. The first was named Jesus; the most recent, Gracelynn Stadin. Like Jesus, Gracie showed us how to live a life of love. At her memorial service, it was obvious that Gracie was full of fun and joy. I didn’t just fall in love with her classmate’s songs, her exuberance and vivaciousness on the family’s home videos. I fell in love with the very essence of this remarkable soul.

Remember on this Memorial Day to live every day of your life to the fullest.


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