Today is Doug’s birthday. Since he chose not to have a funeral, I’ve wanted to write a few words about him, though I’ve struggled with this for weeks. At the last minute, this is all I can say…
This week I’ve been hanging pictures and family photos. We hadn’t been able to do that before Doug died and honestly, it’s hard to do now. In the office I hung several plaques and photos related to his military and work accomplishments. He would not have hung them up. But for now, it makes me happy to see them.
Among the wall hangings are two lifetime achievement awards related to his work in county emergency management. If he were writing these words, I have no doubt he would view this picture with his four sons, and the existence of their beautiful families, as the only lifetime achievement worth having.
This photo was taken in 2016, by a stranger somewhere in Texas. It was the first and only hunting trip all five of them took together. Knowing they had that experience, and that we have this picture, is a treasure.
The hunting trip was a success, as in they returned home with meat for the freezer. I was told it was a great time of action and laughter and lots of good food and drink shared. But there’s more to the story.
It was an expensive trip for everyone. Much didn’t go as planned. There were disagreements. Two of the boys had major expense when their trucks broke down. Two had a severe falling out which took weeks to repair. Kind of the way life is in general, right?
There’s always so much more behind the picture, the event, the person. And that is true of Doug.
I can’t sum up the 52 years we spent together, but I can share events that speak to my picture of him.
We spent the last decade of our time together as caregivers to our parents. It’s not work for the faint of heart! The last months of life for my father and his mother were brutal. Doug never complained. He treated my parents with the same love, compassion, and respect as he had his own.
On October 19, 2021, our last actual day together, Doug was having trouble communicating clearly to the doctor. Yet, as the life flight helicopter took off with him inside, he was on his cell phone leaving messages, trying to connect with a friend he thought would help me. By the time I was situated in a motel room, my phone was full of messages from family and from his friend who was, indeed, on his way to help. Doug always did the best he knew to do for his people.
Doug and I were stuck in a place we did not know; with doctors we did not know and an outcome we never expected for the last few days of his life. During that time, these four sons turned their lives, their families’ lives, and their work obligations upside down and traveled to be with their father. Doug would have done the same, had done the same. Great love given. Great love returned.
These last few years, Doug and I had many conversations about things we would like to have done differently or not at all or done more of, for that matter. We both found the hardest person to forgive is our own self.
Recently, this scripture has encouraged me and makes me think of Doug.
1 John 3:18-20
Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
I love knowing that Jesus knows our hearts better than we do; the past, the present, and what lies ahead. He knows we meant well, even when it went so horribly wrong.
Jesus knows all the things that don’t appear in the picture others see.
Doug always put action to his words, which may not have pleased everyone, but it pleased me he was that kind of man.
It’s been a privilege to spend all these years with him. His legacy is our beautiful family. I am thankful.