It was the most surreal conversation I have had, ever. Our dear friend and mentor from our college days, Doug Burck, called a few weeks ago to tell us personally that he has his ticket punched to go to heaven and should be heading there in a month or so. With his unique candor and contagious laugh he announced that his kidneys have failed and he only wants to do dialysis for a short time. This is our Doug that keeps us laughing with his stories and jokes, guides us to find God in everything, and has adopted us as his own kids.
So Doug gets to decide when he wants to pull his own plug and board the train to Heaven. And get this. He’s excited about his next adventure. Sure, he’s sad to leave his wife of 30 years behind and all of us who can’t really imagine life without him but he’s so Heavenly minded that he, albeit a bit nervously, looks forward to what’s ahead.
Not many of us get to know that we have 2 weeks left but Doug has been given this gift and with it he’s connecting with every dear friend he has to say goodbye, he’s making things right with others, and he’s savoring every minute with his wife.
He and his wife were our bridge to independence during those fragile college years where you are simultaneously letting go of parents with one hand while reaching towards the unknown of independence with the other. He prided himself in being the pebble in Cory’s shoe, forever challenging him yet he was the gentle salve my troubled heart needed. He knew how to love each of us, right where we were at. And they continue to bless the next generation as they have poured into our kids as well with yearly reunions that highlight our year.
Tonight we had one of our last conversations (man that’s difficult to type) in which he challenged our son Cade to “be better than me”. He said, “take what I’ve taught you and go further. If you don’t push to be better than I am than I will feel I failed.” He went on to tell Cade that he sees wisdom in him and he wants him to use that for God’s glory (little did he know that Cade’s name means, “Wise warrior”). He said, “If it’s possible I will greet you at heaven’s door and I want to see that you’re bruised and bloodied from your battles for God and when I ask you if you strived to be better than me, I hope to hear you say ‘yes’.” Big words for a 16-year-old to digest to which Cade tenderly responded, ” I will never forget you. You mean so much to me.”
Such a legacy. He poured into us. He poured into our kids. Open arms. Open heart. Unconditionally accepting. Feisty yet tender. Prodding us ahead to be better, stronger, and to live with integrity.
I know he’s excited but I am not ready to say good-bye. These are the relationships that forever change us, they become part of who we are and live on through us. I am a better person because of him and as we say good-bye I promise, Doug, I will keep striving to love others completely, fully, and tenderly as you do. If only I could master your feisty and rambunctious laugh.
Cuddled up on the couch with my fun loving daughter, watching reruns of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small BBC episodes, we had no idea that the sweetness in the room would be shattered by an impending phone call.
Two and a half weeks later, I am still shuddering when I hear it. Ring. Ring. I have to consciously remind myself to swallow, breathe. Don’t tremble.
Yet, the phone call that broke me has been the beginning of a chain of miracles that should eventually serve to put me back together, but as in all things broken, healing takes time.
My dad survived! Hallelujah!
I broke at the trauma of it all while my dad broke all odds and became the first survivor of the type of heart attack he had as witnessed by one of his nurses. While my dad’s body slowly begins to rebuild the many pieces that broke while his heart about gave up, I am working on rebuilding my own sense of stability.
Time stopped for awhile, I guess that’s what happens when doctors need to stop your dad’s heart in order to save his life.
As time begins to gain momentum again, and my soul moves from shock to belief, the tears have been flowing more easily. Signs of life.
And I find myself, coming before God, still broken, offering up my broken hallelujahs. Broken me offering up broken me to God as I barely can whisper Hallelujah which simply translates from Hebrew as: I give you praise God.
In time my whispers will too gain some momentum and perhaps I’ll come before God a little less broken, a little more healed, and a little stronger. My Dad is making gains too, his kidneys were just whispering and so were his lungs and heart but each day doctors attest that their whispers are getting louder and stronger and wholeness is getting closer.
Driving home yesterday, this song came out of nowhere and the tears came on it’s wings. It couldn’t have been more perfect for the journey I am imperfectly and brokenly on.
Hallelujah! We now know my dad’s heart needs support. The ticking bomb inside of him has now been exposed and doctors are doing something about it.
Hallelujah! My mom choose to drive him to the hospital and happened to drive him to a hospital that was not accepting ambulances that night but they can’t turn away walk-ins. Turns out they are the top cardiac hospital in Oregon and the top surgeon in Oregon did the emergency 7 hour triple bypass all night long. As well, the city they live in was having some problems with their ambulance system and most likely would not have had one to send to their house had they called 911. He would have died waiting for help. Instead, he was brought to the top cardiac surgeon around who immediately got busy, saving my dad’s life.
Hallelujah! My mom was home. My dad is often home alone.
Hallelujah! My dad did not have the heart attack during the day while he spent it gardening, home alone.
Hallelujah! My dad has a larger than normal artery to the heart that was able to handle the diverted blood load, keeping him alive, despite the fact that the “widow maker” main artery was 100% occluded
Halleljuah! My dad’s amazing surgeon loves God and prayed for my dad and for his team and headed in to the surgery room to let God use his hands to do what he says his ministry is: saving people’s lives one cardiac surgery at a time. He told us he could feel God’s presence all night (he finished around 6 am) as they performed life saving surgery on my dad.
Hallelujah! God gave me this man as my dad. A man who always believes in me, always loves me, and always puts family first. I don’t recall a moment in my life where I have ever been angry at my dad or even frustrated with him (there might have been a few as a teenager). He couldn’t be easier to love and as one of my life mentors, I seek to be more like him every day.
Hallelujah! Because of my dad’s love I have no problems believing in a God who loves. My dad is my gateway to God.