Friday, February 12, 2010


What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Although it is a popular cliche, I disagree. Many things in life make you weaker, more fragile, perhaps more cautious. That may not be bad, but it is not strength. Some things in life put a crack in your armor. That crack never seals up to be as good as new. It is there, carried with you, every day.

Today my heart is heavy. That is an improvement. A year ago it broke. I don't expect to get over it. I know from past experience that doesn't happen. I will learn to go on without him in this world, for Wade is never coming back.

I met Wade Westin as a twenty-something college student. He was bright and ambitious. He won a scholarship that Farmer Fred would present to him at a banquet at the University of North Dakota. Fred encouraged me to attend the banquet with him and he introduced us. Wade had earned an internship where he would work with Fred and other marketing geniuses in our local business. Wade was an accomplished musician and I could pen a decent song when I set my mind to it. We clicked in a way that I didn't expect. Wade had a disarming way of finding friendship quickly with people of all ages. He sent a note to me a few days later. Somehow, I knew he would be special. I still have the note.
I believe Wade wrote only one song all by himself, although he may have had other collaborators. He wrote it for Lesley, the love of his life, for their wedding. I smile when I recall him telling me on his wedding day how hard it had been to get it right and that he had stayed up much of the night to work on it. How dear, how personal, how very Wade. He sat at the keyboard during the wedding ceremony in Medora, North Dakota and bared his soul before hundreds of his close friends and family. We wept.
Years earlier we had written a song about his grandpa and above is a copy of an old lyrics sheet, where I had written Willie. Wade later corrected it to Grandpa. I wrote and he performed other songs while we lived in the same town. When Wade finished college, he left my life and I lost track of him for a while. He took the Grandpa song with him and I kept the rest. 
Eventually Wade went to work for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation where we met again. When he started with the foundation he was in their musical productions. He wanted a song about the gingersnap cookies that his grandmother made. He had a snippet of a melody in his piano playing brain. We wrote the song together, mostly over the phone. I would sing, he would listen and respond, I would scribble, he would encourage. Finally, we were both satisfied.
In the pile of papers that are lyrics and songs, I found this page of notes from one of the calls. The next season he performed Grandma's Gingersnaps in the Medora Musical. For me it was a great thrill to see and hear him.
Wade went on to become the Marketing Director of TRMF. He worked for the rest of his life there, in a place that he loved.
Wade died a year ago and I still have moments when I think it cannot be true. Whenever that happens I look through the book of pictures from Katie's wedding and say a prayer for his young family.
The following is a song that I wrote for Medora years ago. The chorus was used by TRMF in their advertising. I place it here to honor Wade's memory and ask that you do Spend a Day in Medora or wherever you can, with those you love, with a smile on your face, while time is yours to spend.

Spend a day in Medora
Set on the edge of the west.
There’s plenty to do out here waiting for you
In a land that God has blessed.

Verse 1
Fall in love with painted canyon,
Brushed by angel wings
‘Neath a sky so blue, it’ll give you a clue
Why nature chooses to sing.
Verse 2
Wild horses roam without fences.
Feel freedom you’ve never known.
Buffalo play, troubles blow away
In a place no one can own.

Verse 3
Stay for the night in Medora
Count, the stars come out
Watch a high steppin’ gal and her cowboy pal
In a show that leaves no doubt.
Copyright Jane K Huso Lukens 1998

Wade is gone, and we are here. We may not be stronger, but we can make a commitment to Spend the Day. Wade was good at that.


  1. And now I am weeping. Great tribute to Wade. Thanks Mom.

  2. Oh goodness...that was amazing, Jane. I hope his family will read today as their hearts are heavy too. You have blessed SO many people's lives and I am so grateful to be one of them.

    Rennae J.

  3. How beautiful mama jane! I remember seeing Wade on the Medora stage with Katie years is so sad sometimes...