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Mourning a death, honoring a memory

East Lyme -- There are no words. None. There are no words on the day you bury your son.

But Paul Dagle found them, even a smile, too, early Wednesday afternoon inside St. Matthias Church.

It was the day they buried Paul and Ann Dagle's son, Brian, a 2010 graduate of East Lyme High School and sophomore at Castleton State College in Vermont. Brian Dagle was 19 when he died last weekend.

There are no words.

But Paul Dagle found them. This was right after Brian's brother, A.J., found them, delivering a courageous eulogy befitting his brother's joie de vivre and sense of humor. And after Will Calkins and Jesse Delucca eulogized their friend, too. If, indeed, there is such a thing as inspiration during unspeakable sorrow, a standing room only gathering of mourners felt it to their souls on Wednesday.

Paul Dagle thanked everyone for coming. He cautioned all the young people there to never stop reaching out, never stop loving. He said he asked his son for the strength to speak.

Brian Dagle delivered.

And so did all of East Lyme.

If you didn't know Brian, you probably know Ann and Paul. Ann Dagle is a sweetheart, one of the town's Everymoms, not just for her children and her children's friends. Ann is a trainer, always looking out for the welfare of others. She's also in better physical condition than most people in the NFL.

Paul Dagle, among other vocations, is an assistant football coach at the high school. He's a gregarious, tough guy who wears shorts to every game, even when it's colder than Fairbanks (where Brian once said he wanted to be a kayaking instructor.)

Funny how this works: Paul and Ann Dagle have always been there for the town and its people. And this was the day what felt like the whole town was there for them. There was never such an inspiring, pulsating sense of community in the 06333 than on Wednesday.

Maybe this was the enduring lesson: We still have each other. And we have each other because we share some bond with the Dagles. Let's use those bonds, as Paul Dagle said, to keep reaching out, keep loving and holding on to what we have.

Otherwise, we'll torment ourselves trying to comprehend the death of a kid who was the most full of life.

One of Brian's high school friends, Kevin Miao, posted the following lyric from Brooks & Dunn on his Facebook page the other day in tribute:

"I can't quote the book, the chapter or the verse. But you can't tell me it all ends in a slow ride in hearse. I know I'm more and more convinced, the longer that I live that this can't be, no this can't be all there is."

And this was proof. While we mourn Brian's death, we honor his memory, so he never dies. And he won't die, not with the affect he had on all his friends. They will think of Brian Dagle whenever they see Minute Maid Punch, a snowboarder, lacrosse stick, dogs named Max, a person jumping off a rock or from a high place, kayakers in Fairbanks, big dreamers, funny people, people who strike up conversations with strangers, people whose personalities run like a current through a room and even on some random Tuesday at 4 in the afternoon when you want to share a good laugh with someone.

All there is, as Brooks & Dunn alluded to in song, is the scene inside St. Matthias. A community together in support of a family that helped build East Lyme into a damn fine place to live.

This is the place where we're supposed to issue Brian Dagle a "rest in peace." Based on the day's tributes, he's not big on resting. Maybe we'll leave it here: Watch over your friends and family, Brian. Till we meet again.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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