Monday, February 24, 2014

Not Stronger Yet

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. Five years 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.

We met Wade Westin as a twenty year old 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. Wade graduated from UND and we 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 once again. When he started working for 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.It was always a thrill for me to hear him perform one of our original songs. Eventually he became Gentleman Wade Westin, host of the Medora Musical. There is a garden planted in his memory on the top plaza of the Burning Hills Amphitheater. 
Wade went on to become the Marketing Director of TRMF. From the time we met him, marketing was what he wanted to pursue, music was fun. He worked for the rest of his life for the foundation, in a place that he loved. 
The photo above was taken with his family at our daughter's wedding. It has been five years since Wade passed away. Recently we saw Lesley and the kids at a basketball game. Farmer Fred and I enjoyed seeing how much their children have grown. It was good to see Lesley smile. We know that Wade's absence has made all of us a little more fragile, our armor is permanently damaged. We have simply moved on in faith, carefully at first, then with more assurance as time moves us forward. We learn to continue, but the lessons have not made us stronger. 
A life too wonderful to forget, occasionally, we must look back and remember.

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

And then we continue in GriggsDakota.

1 comment:

  1. Love and loyalty...that's what this post says to me...and He lives on.