Remembering Doug

doug1I had been working as the Director of Marketing at The Rescue Mission, a homeless ministry in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a month when I met Doug. He was selected to receive a special basket of goodies from a local Christian radio station. Doug was nominated by some staff members who thought he could use some encouragement.

That was in February 2016. And a week ago, I was by Doug’s side as he took his final breath at the age of 50. What happened between February 2016 and November 2019? A lot.

Doug was such a likable guy. He was tall, had a southern drawl, and was just plain hilarious. No doubt about it, Doug was loved. And while we shouldn’t have had “favorites” out of the many homeless men we served, Doug was an obvious favorite. So much so that for the fundraising banquet in November 2016, Doug was The Rescue Mission’s shining testimony. His life had been changed.

Before the banquet, we filmed Doug telling his story. While I would typically interview a person for such a video, Doug didn’t even give me a chance to ask any questions. He talked, and talked, and talked. For three hours. I didn’t stop him. The video crew didn’t stop him. His story was so gripping and heartbreaking that we just couldn’t interrupt him.

That day I learned a lot about Doug. The five-minute video did its best to capture his story, but there was so, so much more. Doug went through things no child or adult should ever have to experience. Unfortunately, he turned to alcohol at a young age, and it ruined his life.

IMG_6623Doug found sobriety at The Rescue Mission. For awhile. Doug graduated the long-term program in February 2017, had himself an incredible job, and found himself an apartment. But by the time summer came around, Doug had relapsed.

Doug came back to The Rescue Mission and was OK for awhile. Then he relapsed again.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Thrown in there was a long list of health problems, some drinking-related and some not. There were quite a few times when we were told, “Doug probably won’t make it.” But until a week ago, he always made it.

He always eventually went back to being lovable Doug. Even without a filter, Doug was so lovable. After dying my hair dark one fall, he said to me, “Why did you do that? It makes you look old!” Naturally, I gave him crap about that for as long as I could. Doug was like my big brother at The Rescue Mission. I knew I could count on him for a laugh, a hug, and an honest response to anything I asked.

After three and a half years, I left my job at The Rescue Mission. At that time, I knew Doug was in Marion, Indiana. I knew he was in bad shape and drinking again. Sure enough, about a month after I left my job, Doug was back.

IMG_9803And on Friday, November 15, I received a call from a good friend at The Rescue Mission. Doug had been moved to a nursing home a few weeks ago. He had liver cancer. Hospice said he had only a few days to live.

I broke down on the phone, but there was a part of me that didn’t believe it. Doug had already had so many brushes with death, and he escaped them all.

My friend Brittany, who also once worked at the Mission, and I planned to visit on Saturday. However, I received a call Friday evening that Doug only had hours to live.

When we got to the nursing home and I saw Doug, I knew that was it. He wasn’t coherent. He was moaning. He was skin and bones. His skin was discolored. I burst into tears. It wasn’t the Doug I knew and loved.

The room was full of people who loved Doug, most of them from The Rescue Mission, and a few friends from Indianapolis. Doug didn’t have a relationship with anyone from his biological family.

As we stood in the room around Doug’s bed, someone pulled up the video from The Rescue Mission banquet in 2016 and showed it to one of Doug’s friends. Everyone else was talking to each other, but there was what felt like a scripted pause in the room and we heard Doug’s voice in the video say, “Who would there even be to tell if I died? Nobody.”

IMG_9807That night, there were 12 of us around Doug’s bed as he left this world to be with Jesus. Doug may not have been victorious in sobriety, but he certainly did know and love the Lord. And while I cried so hard that night that my eyes hurt for days, I was incredibly relieved and thankful that Doug’s battle with alcoholism was over. No more struggling. No more pain. Doug was at peace.

Doug will always mean the world to me. We got to experience a Doug that his family never knew: a sober Doug that loved us with all his heart, just as we loved him. He will be greatly missed.

“Those who walk uprightly enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.”

Isaiah 57:2

 

Coffee with Jesus: He wants to listen!

I was pretty irritated and upset at what I was seeing on my screen. I almost turned off the DVR and deleted the episode. But I held on. Something told me to keep watching.20150426_182458-1

I was watching the latest episode of Mom, a CBS comedy about a recovering gambler/alcoholic woman, Christy, living with her mother, Bonnie, who is also a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. A friend of theirs “found God” while in prison, and now that she was out, she was trying to “drag” them into her Christianity.

While Christy started attending church with their friend, her mother was outrageously annoyed by all of the God and Jesus talk. A good portion of the episode was mocking the Christian woman and her beliefs. Bonnie wanted no part of Jesus because she was suffering so much after the death of her ex-husband, who she was still very much in love with.

But then there was the final scene.

Bonnie walks into the kitchen in the middle of the night to find Jesus sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee.

I was worried where this was about to go.

“Good morning, Bonnie,” Jesus says. “Sleep well?”

“Not really,” Bonnie responds. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard you were looking for me,” Jesus says.

20150426_182543-1“As a matter of fact, I am,” Bonnie says, and Jesus motions for her to sit down beside Him.

After grabbing some coffee, and topping off Jesus’ cup after He asks for more, Bonnie sits down.

Jesus says to her, “So what’s up?”

The audience erupted with laughter.

Bonnie says, “I want to know why you took Alvin?”

Jesus goes on to explain that it was Alvin’s time, that Alvin’s work on earth had been done.

Bonnie then says to Jesus what so many of us often ask Him when we’re in pain, “When does it stop hurting?”

He responds, “When you wake up.”

Bonnie then wakes up in her bed, smiles, looks to the ceiling and breathes a sigh of relief.

I was nearly moved to tears. Why? Because I believe that this scene beautifully portrays what our relationship with Christ can and should be like and the comfort He can offer us.

When we talk to God, it can be like having coffee with a friend. He literally wants to know, “What’s up?” So tell Him.

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

In the most recent episode of Mom, Bonnie is struggling after relapsing into drug and alcohol addiction. She is in bed and yells out, “I give up! Somebody help me, please! God! Anybody!”

And Jesus emerges from the bathroom.20150426_182403-1

He sits next to Bonnie, grabs her hand and says, “It’s OK. We can do this.”

Is there anything more beautiful than that? I don’t know the motives of the writers or producers of the show or where they might take things in the future, but the light in which they’ve presented Jesus in these two episodes makes my heart so happy!

Give your worries to Jesus. He wants to hear them. He wants to sit down next to you, grab your hand, and say, “It’s OK. We can do this.”

“Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7