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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

Gone Fishin’ Instead of Just a Wishin’ - April 2021
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

For some reason I recently started “playing” a few lines from a song from Harold Ensley’s “fishing show” in my head.  He was a master fisherman who took many awards for the fish he caught and for his shows.  A few words from his theme song are “gone fishin’ instead of just a wishin’.”  My first husband and I used to listen to his show many years ago when we were younger. 

Here’s a little about Harold.  He was born in Healy, Kansas, in 1912.  He died in Overland Park, Kansas, at the age of 92 after 48 years of radio and television shows about hunting and fishing.  He graduated valedictorian of his one-room school in spite of the fact that he sometimes skipped school to go fishing.  His favorite pastime turned into a job and also gave him a lifetime of joy. During his last conversation with his son right before he died, he told his son Dusty Ensley he’d been dreaming about fishing at Table Rock Lake using buzzbait.  His son said, “He went out thinking about hunting and fishing.”  Harold dedicated his life to doing what he loved.

Unlike Harold Ensley, I was never a big fan of fishing, mostly because I do not like putting a worm on a hook, taking a fish off a hook, or cleaning them.  As a child, I only caught a few small fish from a creek.  But when my husband and I were in our twenties, we, along with my little brother Gary, went fishing.  We lived in the Ozarks at the time, and our neighbor Doyle told us “the white bass were running,” so we decided to go fishing.                                          

We packed our fishing poles and drove to a river a few miles away.  When we baited our hooks and cast them into the water, we got tugs on our lines almost immediately.  The white bass were really running!  We pulled in fish after fish—it was so exciting!  My husband stayed busy helping take my fish off the hook. When we got home that night, we showed Doyle our catch, and he was amazed!  Even though we enjoyed eating the fish, the memories we made were the best part.  Time with my brother and husband.  Being outdoors.  The cool evening air and the sound of flowing water.  Sunset followed by darkness.  Frogs and night sounds.  No responsibilities.  The thrill of accomplishment.  Joy and peace. 

After my husband died, some of my most peaceful moments were spent outside.  Not fishing, but just “being,” sometimes sitting out in the yard, walking, or watching the sun go down.  Similar to fishing, just “being” can be very healing. Fishing, as well as the outdoors, can be a great stress reliever, a place to explore the wonders of nature, a place to relax—alone or with someone else.  Fishing can reduce blood pressure.  It can test one’s fishing skills and teach patience and perseverance.  It can give a person time to focus, meditate, pray, and dream. 

After a loss, it is important to find a place of calm and serenity—a place to get away and enjoy the wonders and tranquility of nature.  If you do not like fishing, that’s all right.  Just being outdoors can be healing, even if it is on your porch in a lawn chair!  So be creative in finding a special place just for you. Harold Ensley is a prime example of someone who took something he loved as a child and turned into a lifetime of pleasure.  Fishing became his vocation, and he inspired others to enjoy fishing too.  He turned his passion into action, and his theme song said it all, “Gone fishin’ instead of just a wishin’.”

Think about what you have always wanted to do and try to figure out ways to include those things in your life.  Like Harold, do what you love “instead of just a wishin’.”

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator