I have been building a list of people in the Frazee and Vergas communities that  have inspired me, or taught me ways of being a better human being. My plan is to recognize one person per month in a column. I had the first one written in my head, ready for the morning ink. 

Then I saw Duane Strand’s obit. I heard about the tragedy last week, and it knocked the wind out of me.  Duane was a newbie to Vergas, in the sense he didn’t grow up there, but he wasted no time getting involved in the community as if he were a long-time local. This Monday morning, as I read his obit, in my heart the finality of death arrived with an ache that has become uncomfortably familiar. 

This year has been especially difficult for many of us. I’ve seen dozens of obits come across the desk this year of people I knew; some on a personal level, some on a professional, and some were constants in my professional life to the point they became personal friends.  I  also lost a college friend to suicide. The depth of loss that is 2020 is like no other I have felt.  

As I sit at my desk, in a futile attempt to harden my heart and dry my eyes, I think about Ike, Jeff, Deb, Judy, Margie, Ridge, Kipp … Duane. When I think of those the world has lost this year, I think about the light they brought through meaningful encounters, selfless acts of kindness and the impact they had on making those around them better people. And, I realize, the goal I set out to accomplish this morning with this column will have to wait.  It is hard to write joy with a heavy heart.

In many respects I have lived a charmed life. Until this year I could count on one hand the people I loved and lost. That being said, I’m not quite sure how to process this unrelenting year, or know what options are out there for those struggling with loss, depression and isolation. If you have information, please email me at news1@loretel.net or call 218-334-3566.