Grand Finale

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.

Short Slideshow

This is a shorter version of the long slideshow, played at the vigil. This song is special because one of Dad’s friends from high school friends, George Teren, wrote it and requested it be played for him.

Celebrations are NEXT week

Hi Everyone, Thank you again for all of your love and support. The outpouring has been an overwhelming blessing during these first few days since Dad went to heaven. We just wanted to let you know (since we’ve heard of some confusion) that celebrations will be NEXT week (Aug 22 Thursday 8pm and Aug 23 Friday 11am at CGS) not tonight and tomorrow. Please don’t hesitate to contact us here with any questions.

Love,

Casey, Allie & Karen

Celebration Dates and Times

We will all be celebrating Dad’s life in many ways for the rest of our lives, but several special dates are coming up we wanted to make you all aware of so you can begin to make arrangements should you like to join:

Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8pm – Prayer Service Vigil at Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Community

Friday, August 23, 2013 at 11am – Funeral Mass at Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Community

Christ the Good Shepherd Info: 18511 Klein Church Rd  Spring, TX 77379

In lieu of flowers, those who wish to make a memorial gift in Doug’s honor can do so by giving to Head for the Cure Foundation – Houston (just click on the word “Houston” and you will land on the donation page).

Well done, good and faithful servant

Dad peacefully passed into eternity with his Savior earlier this evening, surrounded by a small group of his closest friends and family. It was a beautiful time of prayer, song, and sweet memories.

We thank you all for sharing in this journey with us.

 

As celebration arrangements take shape we will update you all here.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” – Luke 2: 29-31

“His master said to him ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” – Matthew 25:21

 

The start of something new

Sorry it’s been so long sine we’ve updated this blog. There’s been a lot of adventures , laughter and a few tears. Here are a some photo updates….

Dad enjoying therapy – some of the highlights of his recent weeks. He loves being active.

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Directing the Choir at Church

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And finally, on Tuesday last week Dad went in for his regular MRI checkup. This appointment didn’t go as we had all hoped. Dr. DeGroot confirmed the tumors were growing, that the new chemo treatment wasn’t affective and that he was going to be  sending Dad home for final comfort care. Despite this disappointing news, Dad is still optimistic saying “I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve” and “We are still praying for miracles.” Always a fighter and an optimist, giving in will never be in the cards for Dad.

We are all here at home now enjoying one another’s company, visits from close friends and family.

Though this journey may be nearing it’s end, we cannot help but remember all of the blessings from it, all of the good that has come from what most would consider tragedy, and how one man has changed the lives of so many for the better – giving God all the credit along the way.

Words are insufficient to express what all of you in our “Prayers for Doug” community have provided us during this time – a few  that come to mind are hope, comfort, faith, encouragement, peace, and joy. For this and so much more, we will carry you forever with us in our hearts. And as Dad makes his final steps toward Home, we know you will all continue carrying Dad’s light of love with you wherever you go.

Ways you can help:

We’d like to collect your prayers, thoughts, photos and memories to share with Dad and with those who love him.  Please continue to use the “Prayers” tab to send written messages, and (504) 533-4796 for voice messages. If you have photos or files you’d like to send, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll send you instructions on how to do so.

For those who are Catholic and in the Spring area, at 3pm every day this week there will be a Novena (rosary service) held in honor of Dad to pray for him.

For those who live nearby and have a desire to physically come along side my family in these next few days and weeks, we’ve set up another meal train.   You may sign up to provide a meal on this site.

To those of you who live further away and have asked for a way to help similarly, please feel free to send restaurant gift certificates via restaurants.com.

We will keep you all updated with the coming events as we know the details. Please don’t hesitate to message us with any questions – we will answer as we are able. May God Bless you all with His perfect Love, Comfort and Peace.

Fathers Day and other adventures

I have so much to be thankful  for:
     First of all thank you all for your interest in being brought up to date; It really means a lot to me!
     Recently, there were a couple of challenging weeks but things are turning around.  Late last month I experienced what we thought might have been a stroke, but actually turned out to be a seizure that imitated all the symptoms of a stroke. After a battery of tests and a night at MD Anderson I was released to go home with an increased dose of anti-seizure medication and a couple of other things. With these new medications and rest, I have been able to regain nearly  all of the mental and physical function  I had  before the seizure.  
     I’ve been able to resume Physical and Occupational Therapy and that continues to help me a lot.
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     My office has been very supportive. I am now back on Short Term Disability, as I had been after surgery.
     We continue to receive a ton of support from our church family and friends. Practically, this has come in the form of some delicious, homemade dinners dropped over for us. Many thanks to Mark, Jane, Candice, Tamara, Anita, Amy and Lilianna.
     We had a fantastic Father’s Day this past weekend, thanks to Karen, Casey, Mark, Allie,  and Forrest. i got to enjoy my first boat ride in years, stay in a beautiful resort on the beach in Galveston, and get up close and personal with the rain forest at Moody Gardens.

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     The Brain and Spine Center at MD Anderson contacted us recently, asking me to participate along with three other people in a panel discussion during a weekend conference called “Together in Hope” about living with brain tumors August 9-11, 2013 After the presentation, the Houston Astros are sponsoring a brain cancer awareness and fundraiser at that night’s game.
Can you understand how I see myself as blessed?

The one year update

Well, what a year its been. Dad couldn’t have put it more perfectly. I didn’t want his beautiful words (which he wrote just before his last MRI)to get lost in the news of the past few days. You can read them here.

Dad went in for scans yesterday morning and received mixed news at their reading. Dr. Degroot was very happy with how most of his previous spots had diminished, but noted there were two new spots, one looking possibly more serious. Because of Dad’s progression and his survival rate (along with a myriad of other factors I’m sure), Dr. Degroot informed us that he’d be eligible for a brand new trial study. So Dad will start a new chemo treatment very shortly and is really excited and feeling blessed to be given this opportunity to try a new remedy.

This all happened yesterday… this morning Dad walked into the room where mom was and tried to tell her something but couldn’t get the words out. When she tried to have him write the words he was having trouble controlling the pen and again when she tried to have him hold a bottle of water. So everyone headed back to MDA and after a few tests in the ER, Dad was admitted into the neuro-rehab unit (Dad made it back for his 1 year anniversary to P8!) for treatment of what they suspect was a stroke affecting his right side. We have all been really encouraged by the positive progress he has made even today – being able to lift and move both limbs on his left side along with marked improvements in speech. Mom and Dad will be at MDA for the next three days at least and we will know more as the days progress and they’re able to better diagnose and treat what is going on.

Thank you for all you’ve been to me and my family this year. Words are insufficient to express our gratitude. You’ve blessed us and humbled us by your outpouring of generosity, love and prayers. You have been the hands and feet of Christ to us, and He has shown His boundless love through you all.

With the new challenges ahead we are asking for your continued prayers that will help to sustain us, bolster our spirits, bring new hope and fill our hearts with love. Thank you for carrying us when we are weary, comforting us when we are worn, and encouraging us when we are tempted to slow down. You have all been right next to us during this entire journey and we know the only way we can only continue the race is with you.

Anniversaries

From Doug:

May 15th marked the first anniversary of my diagnosis of Glioblastoma Multiforme Hy-grade, a form of brain cancer, which I will likely live with for the rest of my life on earth.  To some, this  is called a “cancer-versary”-  a benchmark of  survival.  Each day of this past year, I have experienced the challenge of finding the joy each day holds.

Reflecting on this year’s experiences the lyrics from the song “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical Rent come to mind… 
 
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights in cups of coffee, 
in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? Measure in love…Seasons of love. 

I can say without a shadow of doubt that this year has been measured in love that has been  shown by my precious friends and my awesome family. Many gifts of love were generously shared and many lasting memories were made.  I  am so blessed to been to have been able to measure this anniversary in love because each a you. And of course I look forward  to celebrating  many more anniversaries to together with you all as the journey continues.

To watch a live performance of Seasons of Love click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp5Eyt7knus