Four weeks ago today, we watched on as Doug entered into eternal life with Our Savior. And during this time I can say some parts are a blur, some parts surreal, some dreaded, some painful, some joyful, and some totally awe inspiring. I can only assume that all this is natural, with the flurry of emotions. I’d also like to think that some of Doug’s most beautiful attributes have rubbed off on me, especially since I often think “What Would Doug Do” or “WWDD”.
As I was dreading the day when I would have to say goodbye to my sweet Doug, especially during those last 8 days of his life, when he lay semi-comatose and then into coma, thoughts were more than “conferkled*.” For a brief time I was internally fighting thoughts of “what is going to happen to me?”, “who’s going to take care of me?” “how am I going to get through
life?” and the horrifying fear of “how am I going to financially survive?” And while I was going through the motions of caring for Doug, I realized I was silently being selfish to think of myself…. It was our beautiful nurse Lori, who spoke one day about Doug preparing to enter a very personal and spiritual journey, a journey we all needed to be respectful of and be supportive of, and that our focus needed to be on him. I felt as if God was speaking directly to me. I realized right then and there that the task in front of me was to offer myself to Doug in any way possible to help raise him up to Our Father. At that moment, my fears, my anxiety, and my selfishness ceased. The peace of God the Father empowered me to meet the task at hand. And one afternoon, I watched Doug have a beautiful experience, just before he slipped from semi to full coma state. It was as if his face illuminated. The most beautiful, peaceful smile radiated. And in the quiet room, with just Doug and I, I could feel the presence of God and I asked Doug if he could see God. It was his facial expression as he continued to gaze with a simple nod in affirmation and I felt blessed to be present with Doug and God. It was not long after that, that Doug slipped into coma, and he then had to start the hard work to prepare his body to shut down in order for his soul to enter eternal life.
A couple of months before Doug began to decline we had a very brief conversation about his wishes and desires related to his funeral. I was certain he would have some input, but what he said surprised me. He said Ken and Carol (music director/liturgist and pianist) would know exactly what to do. It was one of those rare times that I didn’t inquire further, but instead chose to quietly trust Doug and respect his wishes. It was a few weeks before Doug left that I told Ken about Doug’s desire for him to plan the services (music and liturgies). I think he was a little surprised as well, but Ken did not even hesitate
to take the task at hand, and he did so beautifully! This man, I’ve learned, is one who does not accept praise or words of appreciation well, but instead merely states that it’s what he does by simply living up to what a friend and a Christian is called to be. He selflessly tended to Doug in many ways through his journey, from spoon-feeding him in the hospital, gently holding his hand, soothing Doug with his beautiful voice and so much more. Especially during the last couple of weeks, when Ken was present to Doug almost every day, he was also preparing Doug’s services in addition to his regular duties and caring for his family. The services Ken created were above and beyond whats locally known as the “cadillac” of funeral services. The
readings, the music (which included a special song he composed just for Doug) were well thought out and perfect. The 8 string symphony, other musicians, a full choir with both youth and adults were surely a mirror of the beautiful chorus Doug is hearing and playing in now in Heaven.
Miss Carol did what she knows best…She made our piano sound amazing for Doug, night after night. Doug would get a twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes and he would point to Carol and then point to the piano. A simple request Carol never hesitated to comply with. Doug and Carol were music buddies in crime with their antics for nearly 15 years. A very dear friend that closely followed Doug through his journey, from beginning to end. She always has a knack for being able to bring laughter and smiles even when confronting some of the toughest of situations – she has taught us all more about the joy of the Lord. The piano in church never sounded more beautiful to me than the vigil service and funeral mass. Her playing was an evident outpouring of love from one eternal soul to another.
Ken, Candice, Ed and Carol each spoke with beautiful, heartfelt remembrances of Doug, along side Deacon Pat who officiated over the vigil. But when we were first told that Doug’s funeral mass would not include a specific time for a eulogy from a family member, we were all a bit saddened. Even though the vigil had ample time for multiple family and friends to share, there’s something about a heart-felt message from those closest to Doug that we thought would be missing, but God works in beautiful ways and thanks to His sovereign hand over Doug’s life the priest who gave the homily also happened to be one of Doug’s best friends. Father John’s words, surely inspired by the Spirit, had sentiment and heartfelt emotion that touched on exactly how, I think, each person in the room was feeling that day, knew to be true of Doug, his life and the example he set. I am eternally grateful for the beauty and truth spoken that day by Father John and now cannot imagine any better eulogy than what was said that day. Father Tom (my cousin) along with Father Michael concelebrated the funeral Mass. Afterward, Father Tom presided at the grave site to create the beautiful ending to our celebration for Doug. It was he who helped our family enter the calm of the storm with prayer some 15 months ago, when we began this journey, and then fittingly and lovingly helped in ending this journey for our family with closure as we laid Doug to rest.
The “cadillac” of funeral services at Christ the Good Shepherd doesn’t just happen. There are many volunteers as well as staff and committees that make these celebration services happen. From coordinating services, to creating programs, preparing the church, and setting up the beautiful reception with abundant food, the devoted efforts blessed us so richly during some of the harder moments we will face in this lifetime. We deeply appreciate everyone that helped to create the most beautiful celebration of Doug’s life.
And because I know it would be Doug’s greatest wish, we want to take this time to thank each of you who has faithfully stood by us and been the hands and feet of Christ. We all, and Doug especially, are so grateful to have been blessed by you during this time in our lives. Over and over we’ve heard, “I wish we could just do more,” and “oh, don’t mention it” and “this is nothing,” – but the truth is, your acts of service, loving words, and kindness were everything, more than enough, and true treasures in our lives. We cannot express adequate gratitude for every word, every prayer, every meal, every letter, every gift you’ve given us. We plan to take your example and live it out with Doug’s motto – we will amplify the blessings given to us through you for the rest of our lives, honoring the beauty of what this journey has been, and what Doug’s life has inspired us to do.
With our love, Karen, Casey & Allie
*conferkled- synonymous with confused. One of many words Doug created after his seizure.