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Said goodbye to an old friend today.

Doug was one of those people who everyone liked right from the get go. He always had the time to stop what he was doing and have a chat, and I knew that if I called upon him for help, he would be there.

I got to know him when we were active in the antique car hobby which was one of his passions. His father was also active in the hobby, and both men enjoyed driving their cars and talking old cars and were never shy to offer someone a ride, just for the pleasure of seeing the joy it brought to the rider, be they a child or a senior citizen.

A couple of years ago, we made the decision that we could no longer participate in the hobby, and Doug got wind of the fact that I might be prepared to sell my '33 Dodge Rumble Seat Coupe. It was quite a rare car and a model he had wanted for years. He had always deferred to sedans because he wanted the space to take his two daughters with them, and wanted to keep them safely inside the car, especially in poor weather. But then, with the girls grown up, married and out on their own, he felt the time had come to get the car he had always wanted. I had been agonizing about selling the car, knowing that once it was in the hands of a new owner they could do whatever they wanted with it. My fear was that someone would convert it to a hot rod.

When Doug expressed interest in it and said he was going to give it a fresh restoration I was glad to let it go. I knew without question that he would be true to his word. He got the car finished about two years ago and brought it by several times to let me see it and talk old cars. It was parked in front of the church today and his brother drove it to the gravesite. I think it was his favourite of the many cars he had owned, and while he couldn't take it with him, it did escort him on his last ride.

I learned of Doug's death on Sunday afternoon when a mutual friend dropped by to give me the news. He told me that Doug had driven one of the town trucks to the works garage, shut the door behind him and went to sleep with the motor running. I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe that he would take his own life, but there was no denying it.

At the memorial service today, his boss and long time friend spoke about their friendship and their working relationship. How well liked he was by his fellow workers. How he would always do the little bit extra on the job to make sure the customer was satisfied. How he went out of his way to help his co-workers. He told us that Doug was an irrepressible practical joker, both at work and within his family.

The Mayor spoke of his dedication to the community and praised him as the best public relations officer on the town staff. Funny in a way, because Doug worked for the works department. As often as not, he was off to one house or another to tend to backed up toilets. Not the job a lot of people might turn into a happy event, but he always had a way of making things right for the homeowner, and often ended up getting invited to stay for diner.

The funeral was to be at 1:00PM and I timed it so that we would be there a half hour ahead of time to make sure we got a seat because I figured it would be well attended. We ended up parking three blocks away and took our place with many others, standing in the gallery upstairs. There had to be over three hundred people packed into the little church.

Looking at the number of people who were at there, I realized I didn't really know Doug all that well. I looked at all the people who's lives he had touched and felt compelled to join with the family to celebrate his life. When I had heard how he died, I felt a pang of guilt, wondering if I had had a chance to talk to him, could I have helped him through whatever it was that pushed him toward this terrible event.

I thought of how may friends he had, many closer that I, and wondered if they were asking themselves the same questions. I have been trying to understand why someone with a loving wife, two great daughters and one grandchild, all those brothers, sisters, anunt, uncles, neices, nephews, with so many friends that held him in such high regard, could run up against something that became impossible to deal with. How with all those people around him, he could not call for help. Or perhaps he did, and we failed him.

Death is as much part of life as is birth. Every living thing has a finite time upon this earth, and none of us knows how long that life will be. When someone dies by their own hand, we who remain feel that the deceased has betrayed us somehow. They leave us with the pain and heartache and it is difficult to accept that this is how their life should have ended. We feel they have "copped out" and left us to deal with the aftermath.

Perhaps though, we should consider that it is not who a person died but how they lived that really matters. Doug certainly lived his life in such a way that he was respected as a friend, co-worker and citizen. I feel sad that he is gone but happy to have know him. I hope that I am as well thought of when my time comes.

Bob
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