Memory can only tell us what we were, in the company of those we loved;
it cannot help us find what each of us, alone, must now become.
Yet no person is really alone;
those who live no more echo still within our thoughts and words,
and what they did has become woven into what we are.
- Jewish prayer
The evening we lost Doug, Lisa told me about a hilarious experience she had. It was like she was channeling Doug (read it here).
It was just the beginning.
The next day I started breaking things and knocking them over.
For example, I was gesticulating wildly during a story (ala Doug) and knocked over a glass full of ice tea. I've since broken three of my favorite Atomic Ale glasses I had dragged all the way back from Washington State. My mom broke another. We need to switch to plastic cups.
While trying to make breakfast I dropped a dozen duck eggs on the floor.
Doug broke a LOT of things. Like the Waterford crystal cake knife we used to cut our wedding cake. Of course, he never MEANT to do any harm. Breakage usually happened while Doug was trying to do something good, like helping me. In the cake knife instance, he was washing all the dishes I had lazily left piled in the sink.
The night after the memorial service, family gathered at the house for some heavy drinking. My mom dropped her cell phone into the toilet. (See a similar incident when Doug dropped my Blackberry into a large glass of ice tea. He was able to revive it.)
The following week, on a hot, sunny day, I tried to grab a pile of cans of soda, glasses and ice to bring out to some visitors. One of the cans of soda slipped from my grasp and exploded, shooting an arterial sticky spray all over the TV, cabinets, rug and floor.
I was out on the porch moving the Adirondack chairs I had given Doug for his birthday many years ago. I hit an irreplaceable hanging antique lamp with it and broke the bottom off.
Then my mom picked me a bouquet of wildflowers to brighten my office. It was hot outside, and sweat was dripping into her eyes. She went over the sink and poured herself a big glass of water, put a shot of lemon juice in it, and gulped it down. Except it wasn't lemon juice. It was Lemon Joy dishwashing liquid. She was blowing bubbles for a while.
I started calling this phenomenon"doing a Doug."
I seem to be doing a Doug daily.
Knocking a glass of ice tea all over my computer keyboard. (Which then stopped working. I called tech support and while I was on the phone, Dirk dropped off a spare. The tech support guy said "It's good to have good neighbors." He got that right.)
Dropping not one, but an entire dozen duck eggs on the rug. Backing up over a bucket of cleaning supplies.
Hitting a big rock with the riding mower (always followed by an awful sound.)
Then the lovely wife of one of Doug's running buddies wrote to me with another perspective. She said "How blessed Mark is to have had the opportunity to work with Doug for many years and to share the love of running with him as well. I have coined a new phrase in this house - "Do A Doug" - which will remind us to be kind, filled with love and humor and helpful to others."
Doug worshipped and spoiled me beyond belief. He was extremely thoughtful and solicitous. More than one wife has hoped (sometimes outloud) that her husband would be more like Doug.
Right after all of this happened (I still can't bring myself to say the "d" word), one of Doug's close friends (I'll call him T so as not to embarrass him) told his wife that he was not planning on going to the memorial service. T was angry. He was also hurting - Doug's sudden departure was bringing back a lot of painful memories of his father's heart attack. T's wife talked to their son about it. Their son suggested asking his father "What would Doug do in this situation if it were you?" (T did choose to be there for us once again, as he has been so many times over the past two decades.)
Over the years, and even more so now, when I am about to do something I shouldn't, I see Doug making a crooked face at me. I can hear him saying "Betttttttttttt," as he often did, in the hopes that I would rethink things. Like when I go to cross a busy street without looking both ways first. Or get ready to hide a carton of sour milk in the trash instead of recycling it, because I don't want to have to smell it when I pour the contents down the drain.
Yesterday, I went into the CT DEP office to collect Doug's personal effects. Others had offered to take care of it for me, but I wanted to do it. One of his close friends and colleagues mentioned how he often thinks about what Doug would do. Like telling a light-hearted joke when faced with an angry group of citizens freaking out about pollution.
That same day, I stopped into the dentists office to pick something up. Against my will, I started bawling out in the waiting room. Doug and I went on "dental dates" together every 6 months. (He always wanted to eat a whole box of Oreos before he went in there, just to horrify Dawna, his special dental hygienist and Dr. Jack Mooney, our long-time dentist and fellow softball player. One more thing he never got a chance to do.)
Jack and another friend awaiting dental torture heard me and came out. We talked. (Talking helps so much.) I'm not as eloquent as Jack, but here's the take home message I gathered.
Jack mentioned how Doug's life, the way he lived it, and the sudden loss of it has changed many people. It has been a wake-up call. To live life to the fullest. To have fun. To be unselfish. To take better care of yourself because others need you to be around in the future. To heal relationships, because there may not be an opportunity later. Jack said that regardless of what you believe from a faith standpoint, when we learn from others and use that learning to change our own life, the changer's life becomes part of a continuum. A legacy that lives on, even though the person may no longer physically be with us.
Maybe the next time you are facing a difficult situation, or deciding how to behave towards a loved one, ask yourself ...
"What would Doug do?" (WARNING: the answer may not ALWAYS be appropriate!)
Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. Therefore be swift to love, make haste to be kind.
~Henri-Frederic Amiel (1821-1881), oft-quoted by Pastor Jamie Harrison and neighbor-friend Jennifer John.
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