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Lessons Learned: Charles King Fisher

By November 26, 2019No Comments

This post is from the words spoken at the Celebration of LIfe of Charles King Fisher Jr, by his beloved daughter J.C. Fisher, November 24, 2019.  

How do you sum up 99 years in a few words? You can’t—so I’m not going to try. Instead, I’ll just reflect on my dad, as inspired by my camping trip to the Sierra Mountains earlier this week (Yes, camping, IN A TENT, in late November!), remembering the Old Mountain Man: the one who was such a pillar, for so many years, of the St Michael’s Hiking Club. [Quick aside: would anyone here like to revive the hiking club? Talk to me at the reception!]

Lessons learned: first, while it’s easier to stay in, than to go outside—outside your comfort zone—it’s worth it. If the beauty—as well as the challenge—of the experience doesn’t convince you of that, you’ll know when “everything feels different,” returning to your day-to-day life inside.

Second, while the connection between Nature/Creation, and the Creator, may not always be obvious, when we say Nature is “awe-inspiring”—that in itself is enough. Being outside pulls us outside of ourselves, to Something Bigger. When I was little and hiking and tired, my dad would encourage us (me, Bruce AND my mom!) to press on to our destination (usually a lake campsite), with the words,“it’s just over the Next Rise!” In hiking or life in general, it’s the Next Rise that counts. Following the trail—or The Call?—that leads us on.

Third, friends are where you find them. “Can I pet your dog?”: if I meet a dog on a hike, it’s the question I’m sure to ask. My dad taught me about dogs, and it’s one of the life-lessons I most cherish. “Let them come to you—gentle, gentle”: I can still hear my dad’s voice saying this, when I was about 5 years old (whatever my doubts, I will ALWAYS believe that Mitzi and Sasha, our Labradors, were the very first to greet dad, tails a-wagging, on the Other Side!). However wonderful animals are in themselves, no less is their magical quality to bring people together. I never think about someone’s politics, when we’re bonding over their pets!

Fourth, a life well-lived depends on being able to reach the point to say “If I don’t have it, I don’t need it.” The paralysis of over-analysis is a tragedy. JUST GO! Even if you forget something, you can probably get by without it—or get it later. Like unto it, don’t forget to treat yourself: the cold beer at the end of a hot hike, or the bourbon you sneak into your hot chocolate, ahead of a cold night in the tent, are the pleasures your Creator wants you to have. Getting out of your comfort zone is supposed to be rewarding!

Fifth (and something reinforced years later as a Twelve Stepper): “I need people”…we need each other. When I was little, Mom&Dad gave me a whistle to wear around my neck (if ever I got lost in the woods). Camping this past week, I was telling two different strangers, “I’m here in the mountains, in late November, while I remember my dad who just passed away” (the first person was the ranger; the second was a Carson City drugstore saleswoman who sold me a hot water bottle—you know, the one I’d forgotten? 😉 —to help warm up my sleeping bag in that cold tent). I needed to share that with people—losing my dad—at the same time, people genuinely want to share their sympathy…their empathy: we all lose people we love.

Finally…as dad taught me to fish—as well as the aftermath of catching a fish (that is, cleaning it)—I learned the circle-of-life. While I never personally warmed up to hunting, I did come to understand that creatures will die anyway (and that a certain amount of hunting, sustainably, can increase survival rates for a species as a whole). It is in this sense, I can say that, for my dad Chuck, it was just his time to go. His weakening the past few years (and moreso the past few months) was heartbreaking. Beyond the mere physical debilitation (hindering, and eventually preventing, his ability to walk), was the mental/emotional toll: things that used to give him joy (good food, football, even the ability to read his favorite Louis L’mour Western novels) no longer did. Life just wasn’t any fun anymore. I know he never stopped loving Bruce and me—despite his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2018, he ALWAYS knew who I was, and responded to my daily visits the past 6 months, in care—but beyond that, he was just existing.

Which brings me to the circle of LARGER life. The day before his final health decline began, Wednesday November 6, in my presence, Tina Ferriot and Kate Muris {look at them} brought him Communion. He was barely talking anymore, but when it came to the Lord’s Prayer, he could still mouth it along! As my dad always knew me, I  believe he also always knew his “Father who art in Heaven”. I think he knew it was time to cast off this body which was no longer working, this mortal life which no longer brought actual joy, and hike up that final mountain, to that time&place where—in the memorable words of C.S. Lewis in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle”—“now at last [he was] beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” I miss my dad like crazy, yet I can say—and Lord, help my unbelief—that I cheer him as he heads up the trail. Dad, as you used to tell me, “keep climbing—onward and upward, the destination is Just Over the Next Rise!”. Amen.

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