This story is featured in the Summer 2012 edition of myBoone Health magazine. Click here for a free subscription.
Holding tight with two hands, Lee Morgan leans forward with his torch and blasts fire onto the casting.
A wax ring inside melts away. Left behind is a ring-shaped cavity, into which Morgan pours liquid gold. The forge glows red.
In a moment, Morgan reaches out with tongs and plunges the casting into water.
He seats an emerald cut diamond atop the ring. It’s perfect.
The magic of forging a ring never grows old for Morgan. “I get excited every time I get to do it,” he said.
Gazing at the finished product, it looks like many other engagement rings: topped with a diamond, to be worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, a gift from a lover, symbolizing a promise, lasting forever.
But this ring has a different story. It is unlike any other Morgan has created during his 30 years as a jeweler.
This engagement ring is for a woman named Erin Enderle.
Enderle readily recalls her first impressions of her fiancé.
“If there were a party, he could come into a room, not know a single person, and by the time he left, everybody would know who Scott Fischer was,” she said. “He just had this charisma and he wanted to make sure everybody was having a good time and enjoying life.”
It was the late 1990s and the two were students together at Central Methodist University in Fayette.
For his friends at the university, he was like the sun, a diamond at the center of their social universe. Enderle was just one of many friends happily in Fischer’s orbit.
Enderle said she was attracted to Fischer during college but she was too shy to share her feelings with him.
“He was just too cool for me,” she said.
Near the end of college, Enderle took a two-year hiatus from school. When she came back to finish, Fischer had already graduated and left town.
Enderle graduated too and went on with her life.
For the moment, Fischer was someone in her past. But not forgotten.
Vein of love
Engagement rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand.
An old legend says that the ring finger has a vein running directly to the heart. It was called the “vein of love.” Because of the legend, wearing a ring there signifies nothing is closer to one’s heart than a spouse or fiancé.
There was a singular moment when Fischer came to occupy that place near Enderle’s heart. It happened last August at Boone Hospital Center.
Years had passed since Enderle had seen Fischer. She decided to search for him online.
“I wanted to just find out how he was doing,” she said. “It wasn’t an attraction-type desire. It was just, ‘How is he?’”
She found him on Facebook. They began exchanging messages.
Enderle was surprised to learn Fischer had recently been diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood or bone marrow.
He was receiving regular chemotherapy treatments at Boone Hospital.
She decided to visit Fischer at the hospital during his next weeklong chemo session.
Enderle wondered how time and sickness might have changed Fischer. She felt nervous leading up to the visit. But when she arrived at Boone Hospital, the Fischer she remembered from college was waiting for her.
“I got in that room and he was just bubbly and interactive,” she said. “He had so much life about him.”
The two old friends spent hours talking and reminiscing. They felt a connection. When it was time to go, Fischer walked her to the hospital’s main entrance and said goodbye.
It was a great visit. Enderle decided to come back the next day.
Fischer was wearing an infection control face mask when Enderle arrived — his white blood cell count was low. But that didn’t dim their time together. It was another wonderful evening.
Fischer again walked with Enderle to the hospital lobby to say goodnight.
As they reached the door, Enderle turned to say goodbye. Then Fischer pulled down his face mask and kissed her.
Enderle, taken aback, pivoted and quickly left. It was an awkward moment.
“He was always ‘Mr. Smooth,’” Enderle later laughed, remembering that kiss. “So it really didn’t go as he planned.”
Fischer sent her text messages to apologize and explain. Enderle decided to continue coming to visit. She was realizing she had feelings for him as well.
Over the next two nights, Enderle and Fischer pretended like the kiss never happened. Yet it was impossible to ignore the chemistry in the hospital room during her visits. She knew she was falling for him.
After she left Fischer Thursday evening, Enderle went home and struggled with her heart.
Could she do this? Was she ready to become a part of this difficult journey? If the relationship turned sour, how could she break up with a cancer patient?
But the answer was already there. Fischer was in her heart.
“In those few days I fell in love with him,” Enderle later said. “He captured me.”
She picked up her phone and texted her feelings to him. “I wanted to kiss you so bad tonight,” she wrote.
When she came to visit Fischer Friday night, her kiss was waiting — the most amazing kiss of her life.
From then on, Fischer and Enderle were almost inseparable.
Fischer didn’t like to talk about his cancer. He tried to shut it out.
During important meetings with doctors, he sometimes looked like he was trying not to absorb their words. If a loved one wanted to speak to his doctor about his diagnosis, Fischer sometimes made them go out in the hallway. He didn’t want to hear it.
The reality was his prognosis was not hopeful. He had a rare form of acute erythroid leukemia. With his cancer, many patients don’t survive a year after learning they’re sick.
Regardless, Fischer vowed to do anything to live. He also volunteered to participate in studies to help find a cure for others.
Fischer’s older sister, Amy Sipe, is a clinical pharmacist at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. As close siblings, Sipe was very involved in Fischer’s care at Boone Hospital.
“It was fantastic. He was very well cared for,” she said. “He got to know the nursing staff and he felt very comfortable.”
Soon, Enderle also became involved in Fischer’s treatment. Their bond had quickly deepened.
One night, the two were at Enderle’s house sitting on the floor looking through music CDs. She looked at Fischer.
“You know what, you have to get better because you are going to marry me,” she said.
“Really?” he replied.
“I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he told her.
As the two began to spread the news of their plans to marry, Fischer specifically sought out his sister.
Sipe remembers being pulled aside one day as Fischer made his intentions clear, “Erin makes me feel like your husband makes you feel. I want to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Enderle admits not everyone in her life supported or understood her decision to become engaged to Fischer during his cancer battle.
But he brought her so much joy.
Even though his sickness was weakening him, he found the energy to go out and have fun with Enderle. The two even attended the annual homecoming celebration at Central Methodist, where they first met.
More than anything they did together, Enderle said Fischer simply made her feel good about herself. That was his gift.
“He gave me all of my confidence,” she said. “Being with him made me feel sure of who I am.”
But as time went on, Fischer spent more time in the hospital.
He was transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis where he received two stem cell transplants. Neither could turn the tide against the cancer.
Yet Fischer remained convinced he would eventually find a cure.
“Scott was not big on details or worrying about statistics,” Enderle said. “He was going to be the 1 percent, he was going to be in all the medical journals. That was the belief we hung on to.”
Fischer’s second stem cell transplant happened near the end of January, and his condition worsened soon afterward.
Days later he was in intensive care.
When Enderle got the call, she rushed to see him. She was shocked at his decline. He was breathing rapidly, had a heart monitor and two IV poles.
He was in septic shock; his organs were beginning to fail.
During this time, Enderle remembers looking at Fischer. He was skinny and covered in a rash. All of his hair was gone, including eyelashes and eyebrows. His hands were calloused.
When they became engaged, he was so full of life. But now, just five months later, leukemia had withered him.
As always, Fischer tried to make light of the situation.
He would tell her, “Baby, don’t worry. I know I’m not sexy right now, but I’m going to get it back,” she remembered.
Together, they held out hope for a future together.
“He never once said, ‘I’m going to die,’” Enderle said. “He just talked about getting better so he could provide for me.”
But he continued to worsen. His right lung collapsed and he was intubated. He became unconscious.
On Feb. 18, he passed away.
Fischer’s body was cremated and family and friends later gathered for a memorial service.
At the service, they stood and told stories, remembering Fischer for who he was: full of life, living every moment to the fullest, the center of the party and a person who made sure everyone was having a good time and felt good about themselves.
These were the gifts Fischer left behind.
Fischer often talked of buying Enderle an engagement ring.
She never allowed it. She preferred he spend his money on his health.
“I didn’t want him to have to go without something he needed so that I could have a ring,” she said.
But after he died, the idea of a ring stuck with her. That’s how she met Lee Morgan.
She researched ring designs and shared them with Morgan, who works at Tucker’s Fine Jewelry in downtown Columbia.
A cancer survivor himself, Morgan took the project to heart.
“We were sort of kindred spirits,” Morgan said. “She spoke with me at length about her situation and I told her about what I had went through.”
Morgan worked with Enderle to create an original ring design with a fish image on each side. “Fish” was a nickname for Fischer.
Enderle had one more idea. She asked that when Morgan cast the ring, that he intermingle Fischer’s ashes with the gold.
“She wanted to know if it could be done, and I said, ‘I don’t know why not,’” Morgan said.
Before Morgan poured in the liquid gold into the cast, he first added a half-teaspoon of Fischer’s ashes.
“We haven’t done this before, but we’re going to give it a shot,” he said. “It’s in remembrance. There’s a little bit of him in it.”
Today, Enderle often senses Fischer’s presence in her life.
“He taught me that no matter what, live every single moment to the fullest,” she said. “Be the very best person you can. All the time.”
She knows part of Fischer lives on inside her. If she ever needs a reminder, it’s on the fourth finger of her left hand.
“He’s with me always,” she said.