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Observations: A story of life

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image For all of us, our lives will eventually be summed up in an obituary, people will mourn and then the sun will rise again and those remaining will go on with life. And that is exactly how it should be. Photo Mitch Traphagen

Life cannot be fully lived if you are always looking back, living in the past.


The first girl that I ever had a crush on has died. People have read her obituary, attended her funeral, mourned her passing (some longer than others, of course) and then went on with life. And that is exactly as it should be. Life cannot be fully lived if you are always looking back, living in the past. Everyone has to go on, taking a step into the next second, the next minute and the next day, carrying mementos, perhaps, but leaving the past in the past where it belongs. That is just how life works.

I haven’t thought about her in 30 years, and her passing caught me by surprise. As such, I’m not entirely ready to let her go yet. So please bear with me as I share a little of her life with you.

Leesa Tow was the sole focus of my first crush while in first grade at West Elementary School in Worthington, Minnesota. I thought she was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen in all of my six years of life. Today, seeing her photo with her obituary, it is clear that not only was I right back then, she remained beautiful throughout her life. She passed away just one week shy of her 51st birthday.

In first grade, I knew that she loved animals, horses in particular. She had all sorts of horse stuff, and I seem to recall that she was very good at drawing horses. Later in life, she would become an accomplished equestrian, competing in national shows. Her love for animals apparently never diminished as she would go on to become a veterinarian. I also remember, way back in first grade, that she had a 64-crayon box of Crayolas that included a built-in crayon sharpener. Only a very special girl could have had such a thing in those days.

I’m sure I pulled some pretty suave moves for a six-year-old in order to get her attention but I never succeeded. It’s a good thing for me that times were different back then or I might have been arrested for being a classroom stalker. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t that bad but I was certain that I was in love. I was never a “girl’s germs” kind of guy. I always thought girls were cool. And Leesa was the coolest of them all.

In addition to listing loving family and friends, her obituary in the Worthington Daily Globe also mentioned that she was survived by her beloved service dog, Isis. How wonderfully appropriate  for a woman who devoted her life to caring for animals to include Isis in her final au revoir. It sounds like she had some rough years in terms of her health but even during the worst, she never lost her love and compassion for animals. I firmly believe that a lot can be said about a person in how they treat our furry little friends.

Almost everyone with a four-legged companion knows the story of the Rainbow Bridge — the place our beloved pets go when they pass. There, they return to health and happiness without a care in the world, except for missing the human that was in their life. You see, the only thing that animals really want is to just be in the same room with the person they love. That is enough. That is everything. I hope to the bottom of my heart that Leesa is visiting the Rainbow Bridge now, smothered in kisses and wagging tails from all of the quadrupeds she helped over the years.

Had you asked 30 or more years ago I wouldn’t have thought this, but 50 years old is far too young to die. I hope she is at peace, at least. I now wish, too late, that I knew more about her.

Everyone of us has a story to tell, something that should remain with someone else after our passing from this life. Please share yours with someone, particularly those you love and trust. If you don’t feel you have anyone, then you have me. I’ll keep or share your story as appropriate. This is life we are talking about. Life in all its glory, boredom, minutiae and wonder. A life lived is a life that should be remembered, at least carried forward by someone to keep us alive, in a sense, even after we are gone. I know from experience in hearing so many incredible stories in my years of working for this newspaper that absolutely everyone has a story worth knowing. It is, in fact, a privilege to have someone share their story with you. I have been privileged many times and for that I am grateful.

Godspeed, Leesa, from a child who was smitten by you and a man who is belatedly so very impressed with you. Thank you for your life.

To help local animals, visit C.A.R.E. at www.careshelter.org, Critter Mama Rescue at http://crittermamarescue.org or Hillsborough County Animal Services at www.hillsboroughcounty.org/animalservices.

For more stories and photos, follow Mitch Traphagen on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mitchtraphagen.

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