Monday, August 17, 2009

Leaving a vapor trail

For about a year now I’ve been a Facebooker. (I know…spell-check says that’s not a word, but I say it is.) Via this internet social networking phenomenon I have re-connected with friends I haven’t seen or heard from for decades. Mostly it has been a fun experience.

A lot of my FB friends are men and women from my college days. In fact, Facebook has been a primary tool in organizing a reunion coming up next month. Over 200 of us who were linked together because of our passion for working with youth are getting together to reminisce and compare wrinkles, bald heads and other signs of aging. It will be fun!

One guy who will not be there is Doug Turner. He died Saturday.

Doug and I would often hit McDonalds for breakfast after attending an early morning class together. It gave us time to talk about our lives and school and stuff. Already married to Cindy, Doug was more mature than his age, and I looked up to him for whatever wisdom 21 year olds can possibly have.

When a one-time opportunity for service came up in the ministry Doug led came up he asked me to fill in. That one-time became my regular responsibility (I guess I did OK) and helped me grow, gaining valuable experience for the future.

In 1979 I was living in Oklahoma and Doug had just moved to Texas. We met again with someother friends at a national convention for youth ministers in Minneapolis. Doug and I slipped away during down time on Sunday afternoon, walked across a huge parking lot and went to a Twins ball game in their old stadium. We both were surprised at how cool an August afternoon was up there, shivering in our shirt sleeves. That was the last time I saw Doug.

Until last December. We had once again made contact through Facebook. Doug had settled with Cindy and raised a family and built a successful business in Melbourne, Florida. Gail and I were just 45 minutes away from there, visiting our daughter and son-in-law for a week. So I thought I’d give Doug a call and arrange a visit. I wanted to get by to see him because I knew Doug had been sick.

Scleroderma can manifest itself in a number of ways, and its effects on the body can range from mild, attacking the skin, to life-threatening, attacking vital organs. Doug’s disease was the latter, and rapidly sapped him of his physical health, forcing him to retire and spend countless days either hospitalized or confined to home care. When I saw him at home in December his over 6 foot frame supported just over 150 pounds and his voice was weak, like that of an octogenarian. I was frankly shocked when he came to the door and hoped my expression didn’t convey what I felt.

We sat and talked about old times. But mostly we talked about his career, his family and his faith. Here was a man in what should be the prime of his life and has had his ability to work and be active taken away by an obscure disease, yet there was not an ounce of bitterness or regret. Everything out of his mouth was positive, even though he knew there would be no cure. When so many would turn such a fate into anger against God Doug had nothing but praise and thanksgiving for His Lord and was humbled that God would use his weakness to give him opportunity to share his faith with others. I was humbled even more by Doug.

He’ll be buried on Wednesday. Looking this morning at his obituary I realized he was one day older than me. One day. Fifty four years and one week was all he had. But he lived it to the max, even on the days when the max was barely minimal by anyone's standards.

Life is indeed brief. A vapor that appears then disappears. Someone said that all men die, but not all men really live. Thanks, Doug for showing me that each day is precious and that there’s no time to let anger or bitterness keep me from living it with all the abundance God can give.


John said...


Larry & Sheila Colclasure said...

Wonderful comments and heart felt expressions. I'll make sure Cindy sees this!

wereart said...

Your certainly have a big heart and an amazing way with words. I'm sure heaven is a happier place today because of your friend, Doug.

Terry Gray Sr. said...

Great post Rick! Thanks for sharing.

I can relate to the positive outlook in whatever may come by demonstrating a steadfast faith in God , our Father. You see I too have a friend that seems to be able to take that same approach, which we all should, but rarely do, in life's situations.

robin schmitt said...

Thanks for sharing this, Rick. I wish Doug would have been able to make it to our reunion next month, but I'm sure he's having a much better reunion in heaven today.

jstratford said...

Thanks for sharing about Doug it's appreciated. Your post was a great picture of the relationships and of God using him which is a testament to his faith. Robin is right "I'm sure he's having a much better reunion in heaven today."

I'm glad to hear the YA reunion was a good one. Perhaps Brother Doug was able to look down and get a glimpse of it from Glory! :)

James Stratford 1974-1978 YA