I can remember the first time someone close to me was going through the process of dying. Since that time I’ve have more than a few, but the first was when I was in high school. His name was Doug Butler. He was 18 and I was 15 and we attended the same youth group together. Because of his condition, muscular dystrophy, he had to be carried down the stairs to where we met, which usually meant a couple of volunteers plus two or three eager teenagers carrying him in his wheelchair. Thankfully the elevator got repaired so he didn’t have to go through that frightening ordeal.
I’m going to be completely transparent here and just admit that at first it was pity that attracted me to Doug. I’m embarrassed to think that now, but I was young. I thought I was being a real hero making the effort to spend time with Doug. Thankfully he was a big enough person to handle that and, as a result, he taught me a lot through our friendship.
Doug barely had use of his limbs and neck. Most everything you can imagine doing in the run of a day had to be done for him. What was left of the muscles in his throat, mouth and face could only manage to produce the words “yes,” “no” and a moan to get your attention. Being in a state like that wouldn’t be easy for anyone, but that didn’t deter Doug from going out on Tuesday nights and seeing his friends. He would love to hear you talk and answer your questions the best he could. I’m sure it was frustrating beyond comprehension to not be able to speak up and share himself. His brain was fully functional which meant he was just like everyone else in the room, only trapped inside a body he could barely control. But he would take the evening in, listen to speakers, even try to sing with the songs.
That amazed me. He didn’t have to do that, but in sweet spite of his groans and grunts, he belted out what he could not caring how he sounded. He would even struggle to lift his hand during some songs as many others would do in the worship services. I came to not only love and admire Doug, I’d also find myself pondering life questions and experiencing character-forming moments because of time spent with him.
I hated the disease. Especially the day our youth pastor told us all that Doug had passed away. It was just days before his next birthday. I was devastated. Many of us were. We shared stories about him together, visited with his parents, and talked often outside of youth group about what he meant to us.
Doug, after almost 30 years, you are still loved and profoundly missed. Thanks for being there for us.
Congratulations Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Olivia Cooke as Rachel in Me Earl and the Dying Girl. I love her acting, but I’m a little concerned… this was only the second performance I’ve seen her give—the other being in a TV show—and she was dying in both of them. I won’t tell you whether or not her characters lived or died, you’ll have to watch this one yourself. But one thing is for sure, Olivia Cooke is one good actress.
Best Actor: Robert Capron as Rowley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. His character is hilarious and he plays it perfectly. I love those movies, and I find the duo of Capron and Zachary Gordon (Greg Heffley) right up there with Farley/Spade and Candy/Martin.
Best Quote: “A butt can’t be cute. It’s a butt!” — Rowley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Tonight, the people in my life whom I have lost to disease are on my heart and mind. Painful to be reminded of the loss, but sweet to remember them. This post is dedicated to their memory.
Movie of the Week