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The Death of a Child -- War related or Other

Updated on December 20, 2016

My sons, Randy and Doug c1966

Me with Randy and Doug in the mid 60s
Me with Randy and Doug in the mid 60s

One person's experience to share

I'm writing this very personal story in the hopes that by sharing our experience you will find, first; that you are not alone in your sorrow, your grief, your fatique, incredible pain, even depression and anger. Second, there is joy that will come. Yes, I've also written it as part of my healing.

Before I tell you my story, I must state that this is my very own, personal experience which may not be similar to yours. What works for me, may not work for you. Knowing this, I'm putting this "out there" since it may offer someone a glimmer of hope, a moment of peace, even a moment of: "I'm not the only one who feels this way."

My experience, for instance, wasn't a military injury or death as are so many of our young people at this time in history. Does that mean that it has no relavance for you? My son was slightly brain damaged young in life, with additional damage as an adult, and lived to age 46. It is my belief that the emotional experience of caring for an adult child, regardless of the circumstances, are similarl. But, you be the judge.

In coping with the loss of my son, my absolute sorrow, I'm also in a kind of post traumatic stress situation. Years of dealing with my son's problems, traumas, suicide attempts, his absolute desolute feelings and depression that go along with brain damage; alcohol and drug use to "self medicate" as well as the resulting injuries and illness.

There are a number of unpleasant experiences which can trigger me back into a panic mode. The ring of the telephone late at night, a tone of voice, arguing, loud voices or a siren.

To each of you who have experienced or are now beginning the journey, May I offer you my sincerest and deepest empathy

Doug's Brain Assults

In the 1960's there were no Paramedics or emergency help as we have today. Therefore, when I discovered my three year old son in the throws of a full blown convulsion one early morning, we lost precious time driving him to the hospital. Our son, who was by then stiff and blue,

As Doug's father and I sat in the hospital waiting room the physcian came out several times, shaking his head. telling us that they had not yet revived Doug.

Finally he came out to tell us that they had revived Doug. Brain damage he said we won't know until he is older.

We now know that the frontal lobe can be further damaged as was the case with Doug. At age 19, Doug was hit by a car, he was thrown 90 feet landing on his head so hard that his helmet split in half. In his thirties he had a motorcycle accident in which he again suffered head injuries. Finally, whilst working as an aircraft mechanic he was in the belly of a DC7 using a chemical, MEK, without a respirator. His employer failed to tell this fresh out of school mechanic that the chemical was so dangerous to the brain that the Air Force would not allow it's use without a full respirator.

Saying Goodby to my son, Doug

Us Navy presentation of the Flag
Us Navy presentation of the Flag
The Lone Piper, Amazing Grace
The Lone Piper, Amazing Grace
Doug and his faithful friend of 12 years,Mac
Doug and his faithful friend of 12 years,Mac
Family and Friends say goodbye on 26 July 2006 in Oakridge, Oregon
Family and Friends say goodbye on 26 July 2006 in Oakridge, Oregon
Randy preparing grave side service, leaving the church
Randy preparing grave side service, leaving the church
Entering the grave site, Clean & Sober Motorcycle Group led procession from church to grave site.
Entering the grave site, Clean & Sober Motorcycle Group led procession from church to grave site.
Pall Bearers -nephew,Josh, wearing Uncle Doug's dress hat in his Uncle's honor.Family:Josh, nephew; Chris and Todd, cousins-Friends: Marc of Florida, Lance who both met Doug at age 13; Brett friend since age 5
Pall Bearers -nephew,Josh, wearing Uncle Doug's dress hat in his Uncle's honor.Family:Josh, nephew; Chris and Todd, cousins-Friends: Marc of Florida, Lance who both met Doug at age 13; Brett friend since age 5

Why I Write About it Now -- Iraq and Viet Nam

So many of our young men and women serving in Iraq, if they survive, are coming home often resembling nothing of the person they were when they left. Many with brain injuries and others horrifically maimed; the battles many of these parents are experiencing, the fight they are just beginning for their child's life and quality of life, I understand well having raised a brain damaged child.

My son died in 2006 unrelated to Iraq. I should be through my grieving, shouldn't I? So many parents are mourning the loss of their child to war, should I not be less sorrowful that my son didn't die in Iraq? No, I'm not, and I'm told by many who have lost a child that this is just the beginning of my mourning that it never goes away. I just enrolled in a Grieving class where I learned that grief doesn't really take hold until 2 - 10 years after the loss. But, I'm learning there are many things that we can do to ease this pain.

For parents, often, we are left with an overwhelming sense of failure, sorrow and sadness -- it was our responsibility to protect and keep our child(ren) safe.

There is no easy answer for our grief, there is no time frame for our grief, there is no norm for our sorrow. We can only continue to try to make sense of it and to continue living -- learning to live without the child we lost.

Our Men and Women of Iraq

Who will care for those who survived? What of those with emotional and mental trauma, or injuries? If they are lucky to have family -- if not, so sadly, as with Viet Nam, we will, God forbid, meet them on the streets where they may end up living -- as there is no place for them.

Each of us in this situation, be it wife, mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, or what have you, must decide what we will and will not do for our loved one. God forbid this happens, we decide what we can and cannot handle.

After the denial and resolution of the facts that this is who your child is now, comes frantic searches on the web and at medical facilities, try to fix it, put it back like it was.

Many feel shame. Hide the problem and the child as best we can. When others do hear of it they offer advise that can be so chilling a parent's protective instincts soar high.

"Throw him/her out!" "By darn he/she has to stand on his/her own two feet." "If he/she was my kid, by dang, he/she gets a job or he/she gets out." "He/she is just lazy and no good." These labels are also heard by our child, over, and over, and over again. One major cause that they live in perpetual shame and low self worth.

We now are judged by these people based on the decision we make. Hard stuff!

Tragically for me, this came from my son's father, family, my family and many friends. I went inward and moved my son to an area that was far from family and friends so I no longer had to deal with them as well as my situation. It is exhausting! It took every thing I had.

In Doug's late twenties, I bought a home in a small community with rivers and mountains and no people that I knew. A place he could safely roam, fish and explore. I was fortunate that I had money to do this , and, that Doug was able to maintain on his own most of the time, with daily telephone contact and weekend stays by me. So I was able to continue working during this time.

Some people, however, for whatever reason, will follow the advise and abandon their grown child.

I did not. I would not. I could not . There had to be an answer. If I gave up on him, who would he have; where would he call home? I decided that I didn't care how long it took, my son was going to know that he was a human being and he had the right to be treated with dignity, the right to be loved, receive love and to have a safe home in which to live. In my view: he as well as my younger son, were given to me as a gift from God to care for. Right or wrong, this is my personal belief and I am so happy with my decision to stay the course with him.

It was hard, it was heartbreaking, and it was gut wrenching; not to mention, at times dangerous. But, over the years, we both grew and learned what worked for us. There was no doubt in Doug's mind that I loved him and was proud of my son; and I knew without a doubt, that he loved me. In the end he had become one of my best friends and joys. We shared more laughter than tears and enjoyed one another's companionship. This is the only result when you live so closely and fight so hard for so many years, with your child, or anyone else. Incredible respect is born.

Not withstanding that, for 40 some years I was heavily criticized and shunned by many in my family, Some kept their distance for fear that they would be asked to help me.

Doug too was shunned. Something he never got over, because to him, if you were family, you didn't think about it, you helped where you could. That's what he did.

You see, no one could see physical signs of a problem and many, even today, regard mental illness as a a stigma, or, as I was told, a punishment of God.

I tuned it out and listened to my son, to my gut and my heart. Some would say to God's will. I am also so blessed that my younger son, Randy, stood by my side supporting his brother and me to the end. A great personal cost to himself, however.

My heart cries out to you all, because I've been there with my son, Doug, who we learned, finally, at age 40, was also a very high functioning Autistic and later suffered more brain damage whilst working as an aircraft mechanic with a substation repair site, Zantop, in Macon, Georgia, 1996.

Seizures. Did I mention his many seizures? I could actually see some. It was like a bolt of lightning going through him as he stood. He would literally rock back and forth on his feet as it hit. How he stood rather than fall, I'll never know. Others were more quiet but all left him absolutely exhausted and he would have to sleep for hours. It wasn't until he was 40 that we found the medication that slowed these seizures down.

Psychiatric Care - Our Experience and Nightmare

To read some of the experiences Doug and I had with the psychiatric care community, read my blog here on this site: Psychiatric Care in the 21st Century.

This was a 30 year odysey filled with danger, fear, misdiagnoses, experimental drugs which caused horrific damage, danger and experiences; an all too common experience in America today.

My Sorrow, my Grief

When my beautiful baby boy died, much of me died with him. Everything I knew in my life was over forever, gone and forever changed. Who I was, who I had been, what I did with my time, his beautiful and loving dogs, and the joys of my son Doug, whom I spent all or most of my time with --- gone. Nothing left of him except a few material items.

Also gone was the constant worry for his safety. The heartache of knowing that I could no longer protect him from heartless and cruel people. The horrific terror I felt when I saw him come home bloodied and bruised; beaten by men who took exception to his warm heart and his need to hug people. This came the last four years of his life---he became more and more demonstrable towards people he felt were hurting or felt were kind to him. He hugged them. His attackers said they thought him gay. .

I stood by his grave one day and sadly realized that the sum total of our life, family, friendships, material things, all of our deeds, our love, our actions --- came to this, only...the grave and tombstone where we lay.


It Happened on 14 July 2006

I had been gone for several months in order to take care of some medical issues of my own.

In March when the call came, I was so upset. Doug was despondent and said that he was so very exhausted he just wasn't able to handle things alone and needed me to be with him. We talked and agreed that as soon as I had the surgeries I would be there, hopefully no later than June.

I arrived June 1, 2006. After several weeks Doug tried to tell me that he was going to die, but I couldn’t listen, I didn’t want to hear. I’m so sorry now.

He told me that he saw a white owl recently. When he saw I appeared not to be interested, he softly asked me if I knew the meaning of the white owl. I told him that I didn’t.

Again, softly, he explained to me that it means death in Native American culture. I simply couldn't - didn't want to hear this.

I later learned that he also told his brother, in June during Randy's visit, that he knew his time was coming. He asked him to take care of me.

When I look back, I realize that during June, there was a sense of urgency about him. Not panic, urgency. He was planning to remodel his home and fix his boat so that he could take his beloved brother, Randy, and nephew, Joshua, on the lake for some great fishing. The boat project being his highest priority. He didn't get it done.

He called his half sister, Rainie, whom he'd been estranged from the past couple years,because of her close ties to their father. He apologized to her and told her he had made a mistake and regretted his decision to break contact with her. He told her that he loved her and her son, his nephew, Justess. Due to his strong intuition, I now realize that he was "setting things right" with himself.

One night as we were working on cooking dinner, he asked how one went about obtaining the Do Not Resuscitate documents to give to one's doctors. Another day he realized he didn't have a will and we decided that it is a good thing to have and when he felt better we would get it done.

Nothing morbid or out of the ordinary; no alarms set off that he was planning suicide, especially since that had ended 7 years ago when he decided that he would not commit suicide. He didn't. Not until after his death did I realize that he had a harbinger and quietly, methodically worked to "get his house in order."

My Son Died Suddenly In His Sleep

Sometimes, there are no words for -- only shoulders to lean on, hands to hold on to, hands to shake; and hugs -- to comfort and console us --

Our friend and neighbors, Barbara and her husband, Larry, taught me how to tell someone you felt and feel their pain. The night of Doug's passing, they came in with food. Tons of food to feed my family as they gathered to be with me.

Barbara approached me, looked at me and said; "I don't know what to say." With that she hugged me and held me as we both cried. Beauty and sympathy personified. It said it all.

I buried my son on July 22, 2006. He was honored by over 200 of his friends and family who attended his funeral, or called from around the globe.

He had been experiencing extreme fatigue for over a year and awful pain in his left shoulder for a few days; then a crippling pain in his back ,on the left side, just below his waist the size of a huge man’s fist, he told me. Nothing eased the pain; it had been occurring for 4 or more years now he said.

He explained to me that he’d been seeing his doctor about this for several years and as the pain and fatigue increased, he begged his doctor to find out the cause.

His doctor told him each time, that there was nothing he could do. His doctor assumed that the pain was from his shoulder and back injuries. He never bothered with the fatigue nor checked for any thing relating to his diabetes. Not once checked his heart!

Doug told me that he understood that he didn’t have the “right” insurance as being disabled from 2 fractured backs, crushed and shattered ankle, knees, shoulders, (the latter two from on the job accidents due to negligence of the employer, Zantop.) and now this crushing fatigue, gave him only that which disabled people were “entitled” to; could get. In this case the Oregon Medical Plan. In short he was ignored.

So it was that week of July 10, 2006; he tried to cope with the pain. He told me it would go away in about 3 days; that was it’s normal course he explained. He tried to reassure me that he would be fine in a few days. Than, when he could handle the drive, he would see his doctor, again. “Just let me sleep for now, Mom.”

Around 5:30 am Friday, 14 July 2006 he awakened me asking me to help him up that he had fallen and couldn’t get back up. I found him on the floor, sitting, looking so tired and helpless. I helped him up and back into bed.

He looked at me and asked me about six of his friends and his brother, that he had been helping/counseling with some problems, or just loved, wanting to know if they were okay whilst he had been in bed. I hugged him and told him they were fine, With that he lay down to try to escape his pain.

“Oh, Mom my back hurts so much.” were his last words to me.

Later that Friday morning his heart gave out -- he looked so peaceful, finally, sleeping on his side with his leg curled up, relaxed.

I smiled when I saw him quiet and peaceful, finally out of pain. Until I came closer and I touched his leg to get a response, it was cool. That’s not right! I began shaking him, gently at first and than almost violently, no response; I looked for a pulse, opened his eye lid, nothing -- he was gone.

The paramedics came, immediately, they knew Doug. Just a year before he had saved a man who had a heart attack in the local grocery store where we were shopping. Ironic! They knew as did I that he was gone. But, they worked so hard on him for so long to try to revive him.

Doug was pronounced at 1:00 P.M, Friday 14 July 2006.

During those hours, our neighbor, Larry, (called by his wife, Barbara. who had heard the EMS call). came immediately and stayed with me, all those hours, until my family could get there early evening. He was my rock.

The medics made me leave the room in order for them to do what they had to do to save him. I walked over, very calmly, picked up the phone and called his brother, Randy, in California. Randy answered the phone. I said to him that we were losing him. That he was dying. I became hysterical as one of the first response team members softly touched me and took the telephone from me to talk with Randy.

After the medics, firemen, police Chaplin, and police left, we waited for the mortuary to come. I went into his room where he now lay on the floor covered in a yellow canvas. I folded it back and looked into his serene, peaceful face. I knelt down beside him, hugging him ... criyng

I Called his three dogs in to sit with me next to him so that they would know that he was no longer in his body.

For the next few hours, I experienced the most primal feelings -- I held him, my son, my baby, and realized that I was rocking him and singing to him as I once did when he was a baby.

“My little boy; how can you be gone! This can’t happen; you’ve survived so much, each accident you had, so close to death, I held you and you came back. Come back now, please.” “You just can’t be gone now.”

I didn't know until months later that I had gone into a very deep shock; so deep that my every move was rote. I planted a smile on my face if people were around and moved throughout day to day, morning to evening. Eight weeks later I'd lost 30 pounds and realized that I don't remember his funeral, or much of anything. I lost eight weeks.

I existed on feelings of those around me. Their love for Doug and for me. Their compassion, respect for Doug and their sincerity. Without them I may have died right there.

The weeks after his funeral I went through his belongings trying to "listen" to Doug, my son in his new after life, as to what should go where and to whom. When I called his friends to ask them to come get the material things once belonging to Doug, seeing their smile and their joy in receiving whatever it was so filled me with happiness that I had heard right.

One special friend, Mindy, a teeny, tiny beautiful. young woman had been Doug's hunting partner; they had planned to hunt together in the fall. I presented her with Doug's hunting hat so that she could take him with her. Her response was so touching that I'll never forget it.

His horse tack, tools, fishing and hunting gear, mountain man clothing, ATV, and gear, clothing and boots/shoes, worldly belongings, all found their way to where they were supposed to be. Before his nephew and nieces left to go back to California, each had one of Uncle Doug's cowboy hats, tourquoise pieces,American Native Indian pieces, books, posters, pictures, etc. to keep in his memory.

As his belongings began to disappear going to special people, I suddenly paniced! I had to fight hard to surpress the urge to take back and keep all of his things. Each time a piece of his belongings left, a piece of Doug left and I could barely bear it.

Only Doug's voice echoing in my heart reminded me that I must share his things, because that is what Doug would have done. Someone else will value and have use for what he no longer could use. In a manner, Doug lived on in this way, with each person who kept what was once Doug's.

I finally could bear it.


Randy, my younger son, went into immediate action, ever capable and in control, he handled everything that needed done. He and his wife, Jenny, arrived from the San Francisco area by midnight. He immediately took over for me, which was a good thing because I wasn't thinking.

I remember thinking how awesome he is and how blessed I am to be his mother. He did everything from organizing with the funeral home, the Medical Examiner, the Memorial Park, and without a word paid for it all.

He contacted Doug's family and friends, greeted those who came to Doug's home to pay their respects and shielded me from any stress.

His children and their mother, Sheryl, arrived the day for the funeral, he had arranged it all. Because Doug's home was small, he obtained motel rooms for those who would need it. He comforted, and took care of everyone. He knew exactly what and how to do everything. Was gracious and sensative to everyone. He is an incredible man, my son, Randy.

Doug's friend, Marc Guttentag flew in from Florida. He and Doug had been friends some 33 years; and Debra Land, who flew in from Arizona also Doug's close friend and sister for 33 some years.

Phone calls from London, Greece, across the US were all handled by Randy.

My nephew Chris had lovingly stayed with me the evening of Doug's death so everyone could go home and get some rest, He was there to greet Randy when he arrived. Chris called as soon as he received the news of Doug's death. He closed his real estate office for the day and drove over the mountain two hours to be with me.

Chris, it seems that he has always "been there" for Doug and me. Chris and Doug, cousins, but both, my sons. Chris supported Doug throughout Doug's life, always there, full of love, and always knowing what to do. He is that rare gem. Quiet strength that he graciously lent to Doug and me over many years.

And here he was, once again by my side, loving me, supporting me, giving me his strength and loving protection. He offered the same to and for Randy. Truly Doug and Randy's brother, he worked alongside Randy planning Doug's funeral. He had his mother drive his motor-home up from Eugene and park it in front of the house to accomodate guests here from out of town.

I remember opening various cards from friends and family, or Randy handing me an evelope telling me to look inside; there were 20, 50 and 100 dollar bills inside. I was shocked I had no idea people sent money for funerals. Than I realized that Chris had contacted many asking them to send money in lieu of flowers to help us with the cost of Doug's funeral. I was, am, so touched by these jesters, still.

I was able to have a memorable headstone made for Doug and I got to work with the artist to create it.


The day of the funeral, both Randy and I were on Auto pilot, doing what we had been trained to do without real knowledge that we were doing it. At the church, Randy, graciously greeted people as they entered, introducing himself as Doug's younger brother and thanking them for coming.

I was "running" around with a silly big smile plastered on my face, greeting people as if they were coming to my home for a party. They forgot to mention that we were supposed to be in the Viewing room, sitting with Doug. We didn't know. Shock is an incredible thing. Grief -- indescribable.

Eulogy by: Doug’s brother, Randy , July 22, 2006


Doug was born August 15, 1959 in Burns, Oregon, on the same birth date and birth place as our Grandpa Mac. He lived between Elmira (on Grandpa Mac’s farm), Eugene, and Springfield until he was 12 at which time we moved to Foster City, Ca. Doug stayed a year but Oregon was his home so he moved back and lived with various family members.

After high school he enlisted in the Navy but unfortunately, due to a medical condition, could not continue in that chosen career and he received an honorable medical discharge. Over the next 20 years, my brother had a variety of careers, including but not limited, to Mayflower truck owner/operator, EMT, paramedic, coffee shop manager, airline mechanic and an owner of a saddle repair shop.

In his spare time Doug was quite the adventurer. He had tried many things that most of us would not think about, such as, surfing, deep sea diving and hang-gliding. He was a certified class 5 river guide and he loved riding motorcycles which actually almost killed him twice. He was quite the renaissance man!

When we were kids we would often fight as brothers do. He would always want to be my protector and I would always tell him I didn’t want his help. One time, when I was nine, I was going to fight a kid twice my size, Doug heard about it and ran to my side to fight for me. I didn’t want his help and after a few minutes Doug and I were fighting and scrapping on the ground. The other kid just left shaking his head.

And so went our relationship through life. He, the big brother, always wanting to protect me and me not wanting his help. Over the years we had bonded and had always been there for each other through good times and rough times. He was always someone I could talk to and he could make me feel better.

My brother was a restless soul and was often under estimated. His greatest pain was that people did not understand him or did not accept him for who he was. His greatest joy was the people who did. He was a sensitive man with a huge heart.

He had lived in Oregon, California, Florida, Georgia, Washington state and then back to Oregon. Oregon was his home and he finally started to find peace here in Oakridge.

While going through his things I came upon a poem that he wrote and I would like to read it now : “Love and Air”

Love and Air

The air moves in, the air moves out. The chest rises and falls;

you’re alive -- but why?

Another big loss -- alone again; only this time the pain of being alone is accompanied by a void that runs through my soul -- my very existence; and that void can never be filled.

I lost everything, my money, my dreams, and, a very large chunk of my soul. The first two are easily dealt with, but the one that hurts the most and leaves the biggest and deepest scar, is the loss of love.

You can’t replace love. You can make more money, you can create new dreams, but you can’t bring the love back that has died . Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. The pain never leaves; you just have to learn to live with the pain.

The air moves in, the air moves out; the chest rises, the chest falls and you blow out a big breath and ask why?

By Doug -- “The Broken Hearted”

Copy rights belong to me -- All rights reserved June 1995

My brother was one of the kindest souls you would ever meet. He would do anything for his friends and family.

Life, like a wild horse, would often buck him off and knock him down but what I admired most about him was how he would pick himself up, dust himself off, and get right back on that horse and ride it some more. He never gave up.

Doug was happiest outdoors: fishing, hunting camping, barbecuing for friends and functions, with his horses, and his kids, Mac, Woody, and Chyna, Staffordshire terrier, Dachshund, and American Standard Pit Bull.

He admired the native American culture and was a cowboy at heart. He had no prejudices and saw the good in all people, a true gift that he shared with all of us.

My brother battled many personal demons in his life and would often ask: “Why me?” As I will never know “why him,” I know that it was his battles that made him into the very special soul he was and I loved him for it.

My big brother Douglas passed to the other side peacefully in his sleep when his great, big heart gave out, on July 14, 2006. He was 46 years old and I will miss him.

My mother would like me to share with you, in a few words; she had written three pages, the joy that Doug had brought her throughout her life. It was an indescribable love and they had a special bond that only a son and mother could have.

We would like to thank everyone for coming. The amount of support for us has been overwhelming and is greatly appreciated. It has helped us to see how many lives were touched by Doug.

I would also like to thank the church for opening their arms to us. You have been a great help, spiritually, mentally and physically.

After the burial service there will be a reception and celebration of Doug’s life at the Fire Hall. Anyone who would like to speak and share a story of Doug will be welcome to do so then.

Thank you all for being with us today.

Rich Spangler, an executive with a locally located national company and a dear friend of Doug the past 6 years, spoke to Doug's great, enthusiastic and warm smile and personality. He told how he and Doug shared a love for motorcycles and scripture.

He told of how Doug and one of his 5 children, a son, Treavor, loved one another. Treavor was profoundly Autistic, someone Doug treated with respect and love. He understood Treavor. Treavor sensed this. Rich told how when they really needed an hour to run an errand, they could call Doug to come watch Treavor knowing that Treavor was in good hands.

He expressed how much he and his family will miss him, but will keep his memory, that of a great friend who loved them.

After Randy and Rich spoke, Rich announced:

It is our great honor that Doug’s brothers and sisters from the Clean and Sober Motorcycle Club will honor Doug by leading the procession to his grave.

This was an incredible procession for me, the quiet roar of the motorcycles that Doug loved so much, followed by a procession of cars to the grave site. On the way, people reported seeing horses in the fields along side the road, run up to the fence and stand, as if at attention, honoring a man who also loved horses and all living creatures.

At the entrance of the grave yard stood the Lone Piper, playing the bag pipes as we entered for our final farewell.

Doug's Aunt Jo came up to me summing up the day's events with: "Only Doug could bring together, in one room, rich and poor, religious and agnostic, The Mormons and Bikers; and the two family clans,"

I remember how happy Doug was in 1994 when he called to tell me that he was getting married; he had found the love of his life. They were married on Valentines day. I also remember how heart broken he was when his marriage ended.

Randy commented after his brother's funeral that the poem Doug had written must have been how he felt after his marriage failed.

The Aftermath -- A Year of Mourning

For months, the most crushing sorrow and great sadness I felt was that I failed to protect my son. My job as his mother was to protect him -- I failed. How could I not have known that he was suffering a heart attack. I was right there. If - if - if...

After nearly two years, this primal feeling niggles in the back of my mind. I'm told by my grievance counselor that she hears this from most parents.

I had made the decision to take a full year and allow myself to mourn the loss of my son. I stayed in his home with his two remaining dogs in order to allow me to feel and acknowledge my crushing sorrow.

When the crushing sorrow moved to sadness it was nearly a year and time for me to move on and try to rebuild my life.

In my mourning, all I see is my beautiful baby boy, dead at age 46 years, 10 months, and 30 days. I held him in my arms, saw his beautiful face when he was born, and, when he died.

In today’s world, the richest country in the world, 2006, with incredible technology and knowledge at our fingertips; I ask how could this have happened?! His death should never have occurred, It was a travesty, a shame! What an incredibly sad commentary!

You may not care, he was just another nameless, faceless disabled man in your welfare system, who was denied medical insurance because of his disabilities by the mongers in the health insurance industry. Like so many others, he had no choice but to enroll in the Oregon Medical Plan. He was un-insurable to any health insurance company.

Doug’s disabilities, in addition to his health, were caused by on-the-job employer negligence/accidents, and for this you send him to the dregs of societies barrel. Shame!

Ironically, it was almost this time last year that Doug rescued a man in the local grocery store who was in cardiac arrest! The paramedics were all unavailable on another case and Doug cared for this man and kept him alive for 45 minutes until the first medic arrived. Doug had been a paramedic, he was in the right place at the right time for that man. He lived because of Doug!

He was a gift to us; me, his brother, his nephew, his nieces and his many friends and some cousins especially loved, enjoyed and needed him. We all were so very proud of him and his great loving heart. He taught us all; what a precious gift he gave to us. This was not a worthless man . This was not a man who shirked his “duty” to society or his country.

He gave us smiles, laughter, friendship, hugs, joy, and love. He taught us forgiveness. Despite his physical incapability’s, his pain, and, we now know, heart disease, depriving him of oxygen to his brain for several years; what and who he was, a simple man who loved people, offered his friendship; taking care of and giving to anyone in need. He also gave us some sleepless nights.

He gave willingly and freely the gift that was Doug. His paramedic skills helped numerous folk, his kindness as well. He cooked for his friends, he listened and counseled them; he made them feel good about themselves, he would decide to learn something new and go at it with fervor until he became an expert and than offer his new found knowledge to his friends. A useless drain on society? I beg to differ as would many others.

After his death, I learned from three of his childhood friends that Doug had saved their lives in their early teens and twenties; and one person not once but twice. This was one reason they remained close to him and loved him for the remainder of his life. Respected him and loved him.

He also taught us all to be careful with our judgments and labels of others. He wasn’t perfect, no one is; but he lived his life as best he could with what he had been given. He never harmed a living creature and tried his best to respect others for who they were. The biggest part of Doug shone brightly only to be snuffed out by pure, unadulterated negligence.

"The little boy, the man whose human touch was love.” wrote a dear friend from Greece who had known him all his life.

…Wishing you were somehow here again, wishing you were somehow near. Sometimes it seems if I would just dream somehow you’d be here again. Wishing I could hear your voice again, knowing I never will…knowing we must say goodbye…"

Sarah Brightman -- Album The Andrew Webber Collection

Doug's Story

I don’t know why, or even if there is or was a reason, for my son, Doug, to come into my life. He stayed with me for 46 years and 11 months; and than he was gone.

Whatever the purpose, should there, indeed, be a purpose, for Doug and I to be mother and son, I surely was the one to benefit from his being. It was my great honor to be his mother.

Doug had the capacity to love deeply like no one I’ve ever known, and he did. He had no prejudices or biases -- he gave so much and believed that it was meant for him to give what he could to those who needed. People in his life were rich and poor, educated and not; of color and not.

“The call of the wild is a restless voice, strong as a tall oak tree and with the yearning to be free. It is the will within to venture where few have trod, a captive sound that makes a heart pound - it must be the voice of God. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept my faith.”

II Timothy

This, indeed, was Doug. His smiles, his caring heart and actions lit up the skies; he hung the moon and made the sun shine brighter.

Conversely, his dark times, dimmed the very life around him. The times he drank and life was just too much for him.

Many people took advantage of this beautiful soul; many cut him deeply leaving him to wonder about mankind and the capacity to be so cruel.

Autism Spectrum Disorder/Brain Damage?

Most of all he suffered. We had no understanding of brain damage nor did we know to what degree Doug was damaged. Nor did we have knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was born; understanding was just emerging for the profoundly autistic.

Doug was highly intelligent; By five he was clearly hyperactive and by societal norms, uncontrollable. He ran. He went quickly from one thing to another, one subject to another, moved, he was curious; he couldn’t look people in the eye. He fixated on things and he understood language literally. No in between, Black and white, only. Change was very hard on him and he was not able to "read" people or to understand a person's "space."

I became his interpreter/partner in non verbal communication.

As a child, I always told him he didn’t know when to stop; as he teased until a fight erupted. He couldn’t lie. I actually felt sorry for him because of this, everything he did was in the open. So, unfortunately, he was the one who was punished, while the others who were able to conceal their culpability went free. He thought in black and white; everything to Doug was literal.

Fairy tales were a concept he couldn’t grasp. Santa Clause was not something he could grasp. He was devastated when he learned at school at the age of six that Santa was a myth. He was so angry with me, he was livid, not because there was no Santa Clause but, because, he told me, I had lied to him.

Change, of any kind, good or bad, threw him into a panic. He was fearful. And he was very afraid. He lived In a world that no one else knew or understood and worse didn’t know that he lived in it.

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” -- Chinese Proverb

I raised him through instinct, trial and error. Throughout our lives together, I protected him, instinctively, from people who judged him harshly greeting him with frowns and disapproval because he wasn’t like other children and wasn’t well mannered as they thought he should be. I protected him from people who would take advantage of him, hurt him in any manner. I became his interpreter because he couldn’t read the language of human nuance, subtleties or understand personal space and often words and meanings of what was said to him.

He was, as we now know, a “mimic.” He mirrored back to people their attitudes and moods as well as mimicked their tone of voice to him. This often angered folk which caused him a great deal of pain and problems.

He mimicked those he admired. Especially my father whom he had come to believe was the epitome of what a man was. My father died when Doug was only 9 years old and this affected him the remainder of his life. To have his grandfather taken from him, the only man and family member who treated him with respect, taught him and loved him.

As he became a man, he became more my father; he always wore a hat in his last 6 years, just like his grandfather did. He emulated everything that he remembered of his hero.

One evening, about a week before he died, we were in his garage work area. It was a quiet evening -- feeling very content and easy as I sat and talked with him. He was putting together his fishing gear. Working methodically with each lure, hook and line, setting it in his fishing box for his next fishing trip. As I looked at him I was so struck with the image of my father, physically and mentally Doug had taken on the full persona of my father. I told him this, he simply, quietly nodded.

Some Origins of Doug's possible Brain Damage

At 6:55 p.m.15 August 1959, my first born son, Douglas came into this world eyes wide open, looking around and didn’t make a sound. He looked as though he couldn’t wait to begin to live life.

Doug’s first years were marked with inept parenting due to our young age, under 20, but certainly we tried. I knew what he ate was critical, other mothers from the base offered assistance and suggestions on nutrition and child rearing. He was a happy and very active baby. He began walking at nine months and was thrilled to explore everything he could get his hands on. Which meant that I had to insure anything harmful to him was well beyond his reach.

However, health was a different matter. At four months we were visiting my parents when Doug became ill. One afternoon he was fussing so, I had an uncomfortable feeling so I took his temperature. I couldn’t believe my eyes, 106 degrees! I called my mother and told her we needed to get Doug to the hospital now. She didn’t believe it either.

In the hospital, my beautiful little boy was packed in ice in an attempt to get his temperature down. I heard his screams and helplessly, silently cried for my son’s pain. A form of childhood measles contracted only by babies under a year old pronounced the pediatrician.

When Doug was around three, a friend stopped by our home for a visit, I walked out to her car with her to say goodbye. Just a few minutes, when I returned I saw Doug sitting on the kitchen floor with a bottle in his hand looking up at me. It was a bottle of aspirin! It was almost empty! I was stunned, the aspirin was kept in the cupboard above the refrigerator. How did he reach them?! That means my three year old climbed to get to it. At the hospital they pumped out Doug’s stomach.

Several months later another stomach pump run as he had again ingested aspirin.

Several weeks before his death, Doug told me that he remembered those events. “I’ve tried to leave here since I was three. I simply didn’t want to live life on earth.” he told me. “yet, I’ve never been able to go through with it,” he smiled, “with my luck, had I succeeded, I’d be sent back to do it all over and I sure as hell don’t want that!”

Around the age of 3, 2:00 A. M. I awoke hearing a funny noise coming from Doug’s room, next door. It sounded like hiccuping. I got up and walked into Doug’s bedroom to see his back arched his eyes rolled back, his body stiff, and then tremendous shaking.

I wrapped Doug in a blanket and we drove the 20 minute ride to the hospital. This was 1961, there was no “911” emergency, nor were there paramedics.

When we arrived, Doug had died or was very near death as he was blue and very stiff. A part of my mind registered this but the other part vigorously denied it.

As his father and I sat, terrified, in the hospital waiting room, the pediatrician, Dr. Berryhill, came out several times shaking his head telling us they hadn’t been able to bring him around and it was looking doubtful. All time ceased for me. I can’t tell you today how long we sat there or how long they worked to revive my son.

Dr. Berryhill finally came out with a grave look on his face, he said that Doug was breathing now. That’s all I heard, except for “…we won’t know brain damage until he is a teen or older perhaps…”

Dr. Berryhill prescribed the medicine de jour --Phenobarbital barbiturate suppositories at the first sign of fever to prevent Doug from seizing again. He felt that after age 5 chances of further convulsions would be very minimal.

Nose bleeds were also a part of Doug’s life beginning at an early age through adulthood. Not minor minute nose bleeds but 30 - 60 minute bleeds. Barely touch his nose bleeds. They were awful, diagnoses? Dry nasal passage.

October 20, 1962 at 2:00 A.M. I was blessed with another son, Randall August . From the beginning this little star shone bright and brought laughter and joy into our lives. Doug so loved his little brother that I had to put his bed in the “baby's” room so that he could protect and sleep near him.

Randy balanced Doug, it seemed. He also gave me balance and strength throughout life with his generous and loving soul. He suffered also for his brother's antics and over zealous actions.

Doug ran. He loved to run. I couldn’t keep up with him, and it was dangerous as he would dash into the street, out of the car. He was like a puppy mindlessly fleeing from a car for the glee of freedom totally without awareness of danger. At age 4, I found Doug on freeway, a mile from home, happily he turned toward us and said; “I’m going to see Aunt Maureen in California.” He was well on his way being a mile from home on I-5!

Doug was very, very active -- all the time.

Doug told me, in later life, that his grandfather taught him to look people in the eye. “Grandpa said that a man looked another man in the eye.” So, because his hero told him to, this is what Doug learned and forced himself to do.

He spat! He was arrested at a shopping mall when he was 13 for spitting on the sidewalk. He blew his nose cowboy style. This habit and spitting wouldn’t stop until his late 30’s when I discovered he had learned this from his grandfather when they were on the farm outside working side by side. He thought this is what men do.

I laughed and told him it was, when they were alone or out in the woods, but that had his grandfather lived, he would have explained to Doug that it is never done in mixed company nor in public or the house.

He demanded absolute attention. To be the center of the universe. At least that is what it appeared to be. Once I began to study Autism, I understood that it was his reactions to stimuli that made him the center of attention.

His temper tantrums. He erupted/exploded. It seemed that he was stuck at 2 years of age as far as his tantrums were concerned; as were his outbursts. His hyper state. His loud voice. It was one thing to witness such outbursts at ages under 20, but quite another as he became a man in his 30s and 40s at 5'8" and 200 pounds of muscle.

School was torture.

He was 5 years old, in kindergarten. His teacher asked me to visit her and discuss Doug. She said that he was just not ready for kindergarten and she wanted him to be removed and return the following year. He was disruptive in class and immature.

I thought about it and wondered what affect this would have on Doug’s self esteem. His friends from our neighborhood were all in kindergarten with him. I concluded that it wasn’t warranted.

The teacher was so angry. Unbeknownst to me she began having him tested as she believed that he was slow witted. She telephoned me to meet her at the school to again discuss Doug. This time there was a clear difference as she explained the testing she had done by the University of Oregon. They discovered that Doug’s IQ was over 150. She was in awe now at having a little genius in her class.

This began a series of studies and meetings at the University of Oregon. The only thing I remember were the final words of the head of the Special Education Department, Dr. Love, to me. “By the time you have raised Doug you will have prayed to God that he had been mentally retarded.”

These words rang clear and true throughout my life with my Doug.

By age 10 it was pretty well thought by most every one that Doug and I were in a power struggle and I had lost. His pediatrician pronounced this when Doug was 5. They believed that I had no control over him. My parents and family were especially critical of my parenting skills when it came to Doug. However, they raved and praised them relative to my younger son, Randy. Cruelly, they praised and raved over Randy regularly in front of Doug.

It broke my heart. I could see Doug watching all affection and praise going to his baby brother, he would hang his head and stand there waiting for someone to notice him. When they paid him no attention…need I say more. He became over active demanding their attention which he obtained as inevitably he had a temper tantrum or an outburst of some type.

I had no idea what to do for my son or what was causing all of this. I knew in my heart that he was beautiful and loving. And I just couldn’t understand his behavior. I saw that it was harmful to him in so many ways. I understood why my family shunned him but I didn’t like it. I began to keep Doug away from them. Thus began my protection of Doug in an effort to keep his self esteem in tact.

He just never knew when to quit teasing, rough housing, etc. This caused problems at school and at home. So I focused on teaching him this necessary tool of living using behavior modification. His little brother, Randy, suffered greatly from this since he was the nearby target of his teasing, rough housing, etc. But mostly, he suffered because Doug required most of my attention and we were a one parent home. My biggest regret is that I couldn't manage Doug and have the time Randy so needed from me.

The Search for Answers

For the first time, I sought out the help of a psychiatrist, Dr. Holland. He thoughtfully listened to me and than told me that rather than meet and/or treat Doug, it was his belief that it was the parents who needed his sessions. So began a year of counseling. Every session evolved around Doug, his behavior and how I handled it. It was helpful, but, I've wondered if he had met Doug and observed him, would he have picked up on the brain damage. Could things have been different, easier for Doug.

Seeking answers and understandings, I began reading every childhood development and psychology that I could find. I finally settled on Behaviorism and learned behavior modification skills.

I began to utilize behavior modification with Doug in an attempt to control his lack of control impulses, temper tantrums and his anger. I can still see my 10 year old son stomping up the stairs to his room for “time out." I used this method to give him a quiet and safe place to calm himself. I also can hear him angrily yelling at me that I sounded like a "damn" psychiatrist. He hated, "and how did that make you feel?", etc. Interestingly, he'd never been to a psychiatrist.

By sheer accident, these methods that I applied from age 10 to the remainder of his life, worked well for Doug. By his late 20s he began giving himself "time outs," to regain balance.

Doug could not lie. Absolutely, without doubt, could not fib, fudge, bend the line, lie. Not even a little white lie. I almost felt sorry for him as this one trait caused him so much pain. He could never understand why he was in trouble all the time. Doug had absolutely no secrets about himself. Not at any time in his life. Good or bad this is what he revealed about himself to new friends or acquaintances.

For me, his mother, it took some getting used to because this meant he told me everything at one time or another. Things a mother just really would rather not hear about her adult son’s life. He was the most upfront, honest, in your face person I knew.

Swear. I don't know when it began, but Doug swore something awful when he was over excited or angry. Every swear word you can imagine and, in several languages without the ability to control it. Nothing could control or stop this. It wasn't pretty or pleasant to be around and it was loud. I believe, it was a form of Turrets because it only happened when he was over stimulated or anxious. This certainly didn't win him any points from the family.

Doug was fantastic by age 13 at getting what he wanted through his Horse trading talents. Once he started out with GI Joe and ended up with a gas powered Go-Cart in a matter of weeks. What we mistook as a short attention span and loosing interest or giving up on something he started was actually not, as I learned over the years, especially in his 40's. It took me that long to understand what he was doing.

He was very methodical in setting goals, attaining them, then moving on to the next goal that only he knew. Be it conquering his fears, learning something new, a job or learning music.

His fears, sleepless nights and terrors.

Fear was a constant companion to Doug from a very early age. I now realize that in his twenties, he began taking hold of his fears, one by one and conquering them. Again, we thought he didn't have the ability to stick with something. How wrong we judged him.

For instance, he managed to buy a Mayflower moving truck, go to their school in Indiana to learn to drive it and made a cross country trip moving furniture. When he returned home he sold the truck.

What he did on that one trip: he conquered his fear of being away from home on his own. He learned that he could handle driving a semi and drive cross country. He learned that he hated dealing with people when it came to moving their belongings.

He had a life long fear of horses. He bought a horse; an Arab yearling, no less, and learned that he could handle him. He also learned to ride. This was the first of several horses that he owned over his adult life.

I often imagined, for Doug, life was standing in the middle of a ten lane freeway, in between the two fast lanes, trying desperately to get to a safe place.

So much going on around him, constantly, impossible to cross the freeway. He simply curled up and stayed where he was with his arms over his head to drown out the sound. A City was horrific for him with all the hustle and bustle.

Accidents exasperating his fears

His first arm break was at age 2 when one of his father's friends picked him up and tossed him into the air. on the way down, his arm hit the refridgerator and snapped it.

I don't remember it, but he swears that he nearly drowned at age 4 on a trip with me and a friend to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

At ten, I opened the front door to find him standing there with a man behind him. He told me he had just been hit by car. I didn't believe him until the man held up his mangled bicycle. I was shocked. His bike had gone completely under the car, but Doug instinctively jumped off before it went under sparing him injury.

As a teenager, he shattered his upper arm from falling off of a horse. I really don't know how many other injuries he sustained as a teen. At age 19, he had a motorcycle accident. He was thrown over 90 feet and hit so hard that his helmet cracked in half. He was hospitalized for over a week with two fractured vertebrae and other internal injuries. I have no doubts that his frontal lob suffered more damage.

As a paramedic, he took a weekend motorcycle ride into the mountains. I received a call from Randy telling me that they had just airlifted Doug to a major trauma center as he'd had a motorcycle accident. Again broken vertebrae and head injury.

Then there was the crushed ankle requiring 7 pins; the torn knee, another back injury, shoulder and neck injuries from on-the-job accidents.

Drugs, Alchol became a big part of his life -- Self Medicating

I don't know when drugs entered my son's life. When I first discovered it he was in his twenties. Kicking, fighting and angry, he went into a Drug program that I arranged. It would help for awhile and then he would be back into the cycle until I entered him again into a Drug program.

As he aged I think he had better control over drugs, but not alcohol. He simply could not leave alcohol alone. He felt it was the sign of a man to socialize with alcohol, in a bar. This would be a problem for him his entire adult life.

Literal black and white thought process. Respected boundaries set, rules of man.

If one said to Doug, "Let's do lunch." Doug waited for the call and when it didn't come declared the person a liar. Very literal on what he thought made a man a man. As hard as I tried, this is one area that I couldn't master with Doug. Inevitably, I used an expression that to Doug was a promise -- I was in trouble with him a lot over that, along with a whole lot of other people. This is a really hard trait to deal with .

Another example were the "rules" of life that he learned. Such as, you don't mess with another man's woman. he was very disciplined in this area. Other "man" rules he learned from my father, he was adament about. He knew how to ge a "gentleman" an honest and good man.

The Hardest Journey - Psychiatric Community

I was his interpreter. When I wasn’t with him, he would telephone and tell me of an event or something someone said to him and asked how he might think about it. Interpret it. I performed this small help for over 35 years. Now that is trust!!

I cannot tell you how many in the psychiatric profession insulted me for being my son's advocate, one whom we'd not yet met and after a suicide attempt one weekend, called on Monday to ask where we were, when I told him I’d taken Doug to a suicide clinic over the weekend, he ended his call with: “well, with a mother like you no wonder he wants to commit suicide.” I had telephoned him on Friday to have him see Doug who was suicidal; he told me he would see him the following Monday and set an appoitment. By Saturday I'd taken Doug to a facility that could handle his suicidal urgers. Monday was too late.

Nurses and aids who made things worse in suicide lock down. Doug felt safe in releasing his anxiousness with me which sometimes, as an adult manifested itself in a panic attack with him yelling. This happened on one stay when an aide spun on him and spit out that he would not treat his mother in this manner. I had to then calm hdr and Doug down. Tell her, that I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself that Doug and I had an agreement as to what he will express to me and how.

Everyone diagnosed something different, from ADD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Depression and finally borderline personality disorder.

All tried various medications, some of which slammed his head onto his shoulder so fast and tight that he couldn’t move. Others that made him totally crazy without rationalization. None of these physicians took responsibility for what they prescribed or the resulting after math. They refused help or assistance of any kind, leaving me to handle it; even psychotic episodes that some of the drugs induced.

My belief is this: The psychiatric profession and community are still very young.There are no standards.

Guessing is the best that can be done. It is not yet a science. Guessing the diagnosis as it is presented and according to the knowledge of the practitioner which can vary wildly. Treatment and medication also are subject to the practitioner's experience and education.

Stay with your heart’s urging as a parent. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied or talked into something until you fully understand it and the consequences to your child. Investigate your practitioner, learn where he/she attended school, internship, what illness was their specialty. If they haven’t a successful history in treating your child’s illness, run. Find another.

“Do No Harm.” Doesn’t seem to be the operative word in many of these environments, rather, “let’s give it a try and see what happens.” That, in my opinion, is a very dangerous.

By the time I figured that Doug had a form of Autism, he had suffered so much. So needlessly.

Finally around age 39 he was given life skills classes. Two years of learning how to look for personal space distance, how to handle it when he was afraid, learning how to look for cues from other people. Handling his money, taking care of himself, etc.

This coupled with my education in reading books and books and books on Autism; especially the 13 year old British boy who wrote how it was to be high functioning Autistic. I learned how to accept Doug for who he was. To understand that he couldn’t change, I had to change. His family had to change.

Boundaries are critical with Doug. Once he understands it he respects it. When he threw a temper tantrum, I understood that he was over whelmed and was in panic mode. Old behavioral training from his youth, taught him to put himself in time out. I learned not to react rather remain calm and expect him to take his time out to calm himself.

Change, any change threw him into panic mode. When I would come to visit after an absence of months with only telephone contact, without fail within the first month, he would unceremoniously scream at me to pack up and take myself and my money with me, he never wanted to see me again.

I had learned to sit quietly and not respond in any manner. He would march himself to his room and place himself in time out. When he was rested and calmed, he would come out with a sly smile and say: “ I guess I had an autistic moment. I’m sorry Mom.”

He learned to take some cues from his body, since it was very hard for him to be around a group of people in a social situation, especially in a loud restaurant. When he began to feel tense, he learned to get up, excuse himself and go home to quiet and his loving dog, Mac.

It took longer to teach his family and friends to let him go and to understand why he was leaving…to prevent a blow up. But some did learn.

Latent Talents

In his last years he taught himself to play the harmonica. He also learned to play the guitar and to sing. I cried when first he picked up a harmonica and played it for me. It was incredible and oh so beautiful. His being a "mimic" translated to his learning to play the guitar, harmonica and his singing.

Some Goodbyes from Friends

From Flo: “I know this time is difficult for you in many ways, but I also know you are spending this time with Doug, with his life and yours as his mom. I know it is a process of grieving but, even more important, it is shaping a new relationship with Doug that will be with you and ever present.”

Randy receiving the flag for the family
Randy receiving the flag for the family

Doug's Companion Dog --Mac, of 12 years: Farewell

Mac a beautiful Straffordshire Terrier, provided Doug with unconditional love for 12 years; even when Doug had his explosive outbursts, and especially when he was severely depressed. Mac lay wrapped beside him never leaving his side.

I have no doubts, that without Mac, Doug would have died years earlier. He was an incredible dog! He took his job of caring for Doug very seriously and knew that it was his job.

My son had been preparing for Mac’s death for several years as he knew it was going to be a very, very hard thing for him to say goodbye to Mac. He and Mac were together every day from the time Mac was 5 weeks old. They had wonderful adventures filled with hiking in the woods, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and the rivers of Washington and Oregon. Constant companions with a love for one another that was an incredible thing to witness and recognized by all who knew them.

To this end, my son had looked into costs for cremation and urns. It happened that I found an urn that seemed suitable; I purchased it after talking with my son. I brought it to him when I came the first of June to live r with him again.

He took it from the box, examined it, saw there was a place for a picture and a plaque; he nodded his head, solemnly, that he approved. We placed it back in the box and put it in the storage cabinet for the day it would need to be put into service. That done, my son was prepared as best he could be; free to simply grieve the loss of his best friend, knowing that he had given him the most wonderful love filled life a dog could possibly have had. As well as knowing that Mac had given him the same love -- unconditional.

As we closed the storage door, he quietly stated that when he died, he wanted Mac’s urn to be buried with him. Little did we know how prophetic this was to be.

Without warning, my son died in his sleep, at home one morning, the following month.

Mac and I grieved together, we were in absolute shock.

Not long after my son’s death, I drove to his grave with Mac. About an 1/8th of a mile from the entrance into the graveyard, Mac began to whimper, whine and pace from front seat to back seat. As I stopped at the foot of my son’s grave, Mac let out the most mournful howl I’ve ever heard. Mac had never, ever, howled in the 12 years I knew him.

Had I not opened the door when I did, I think he may have jumped through the window, as it was he flew passed me straight to his loving companion’s grave and began to circle it, smelling it. Mac had never been here.

I sat down next to the grave. Mac finally came and sat with me. We sat for a long time talking with Doug. How Mac knew where we were going or that his best friend was buried there, I’ll never know. But it was an incredible thing to witness. The depth of their connection so very apparent.

As the months went by, it became clear to me that Mac was not well. He was so valiant and it was apparent that he wanted to stay with me and the new dog, Chyna, Mac was the ultimate caregiver. Mac was training Chyna as Doug trained him! He was a tough task master.

It was also becoming very clear that he was in pain. Some days he just lay in his chair and coughed lightly, didn’t eat nor did he go outside to relieve himself. Finally, I could ignore it no longer. I worried and fretted wondering if it was the right time, as he always rallied and after a day down would be out in the backyard running and playing with my son’s other dog, a year old female.

This was my last link to my son. His best friend, his loving companion and partner for 12 years! Mac had also become my best friend and afforded me the same love and protection over the years that he gave to my son. It was incredibly hard for me to make the decision. But something nudged me, I like to think it was my son, telling me that it was indeed time; why let him suffer so when he could join his best friend.

And so it was on a Wednesday late afternoon, that Mac peacefully joined my son. When the vet arrived at our home, she saw Mac and stated that he had been very sick for a very long time. She believed he had hung on for his Doug and now trying to hang on for me.

He was laying in my lap at home as the Vet injected a sedative. She gave me three hours before she sedated him deeply, and than that last shot. He died quickly in loving arms and with dignity. I would honor my son’s last wish. Mac's urn sits next to Doug's tombstone.


My son had rescued and adopted a female, 4 month old, American Standard Pit Bull puppy, in 2005 whom Mac decided was his job to train, teach her to be an omega dog around other dogs, and to keep her inline with the household rules.

Because she chewed up every toy she received, I’d gotten her a red ball that was indestructible. It was her energetic puppy routine to wait until Mac and I had settled in for the evening, he to take a nap and me to watch the evening news, to begin demanding a game of catch with me and her red ball.

Because the ball was heavy, when she missed catching it, it would “ka-thug” loudly on the floor. After a few misses, Mac would open one eye and look at her, clearly annoyed by the noise, and her activeness, whilst he wanted quiet.

Engrossed in the evening news I didn’t notice that it was quiet with the exception of the puppy’s whine. I looked and saw her laying below Mac,who was on the sofa, begging him, I got up to see what she was whining about and saw…Mac had taken her red ball and had it firmly placed under his chin. There was no way she was getting that ball from him the rest of the evening. He was going to have his quiet.

On another occasion, after searching for her red ball for most of the day, I went into the bathroom, thank goodness I looked into the toilet! There, in the toilet, was her red ball! Mac had decided to really dispose of it once and for all!

We have not found the ball and have no idea where Mac hid it his last time. But it went missing again a day or two before he died. It is no where to be found. I guess Mac finally disposed of it as only “Daddy“ Mac could.

Doug's Death Could Have Been Prevented

The Autopsy Results

We learned from the Medical Examiner that Doug had five major blockages in his heart, in addition to an enlarged heart! The pain in his left shoulder and in his back the past 5 years, that his doctor ignored, and the excruciating pain that I witnessed 4 days before he died, were angina pain!

I cried so when I realized how much it must have taken from him just to get up in the morning. I now understood his exhaustion the past years, it wasn't depression!

Had his doctor given him one EKG or one little Stress Test he would have found it. He had several years to do this!! Doug may have lived had he received treatment for heart disease when he first began exhibiting his symptoms 5 years before. But, as Doug said, he didn’t have the “right” insurance; nobody cared about a man who was not physically able to work.”

I’m angry!

His death due to societal ignorance and political manipulation of power and money and budget cuts for the poor? What of the role of his doctor that he trusted to care for him? He takes no responsibility.

How could his doctor not have known of his enlarged heart? Had Doug had the “right” insurance would his doctor not have checked his protein levels, given him an EKG and most importantly, at his age with his condition, a stress test that could perhaps have saved his life. Or, is it that Oregon Health pays so little that only negligent, inexperienced or tired doctors are under the plan; leaving no choice for the ill to be entitled to competent medical professionals? We will never know these answers, for Doug it‘s too late. He is gone.

Doug's Hero -- his Grandfather, my Father

When Doug's father and I divorced in 1965, it was a hard time for everyone. Divorce was not accepted and children of a divorced home were pretty devastated.

My father, Doug's grandfather, played a pivotal role in his life from that time, age 7 until his death when Doug was 9 years old. Actually, pivotal his entire life, as Doug emulated him, adopted his values and way of life for his entire life.

He had sold his home in town and moved my mother and himself onto 50 acres of land with a two story, one hundred year old home and barn on the outskirts of the City.

Doug, Randy and I spent hours out there helping Dad with his herd of Black Angus cattle, remodeling the house, building a bridge to cross the creek that ran across the long, dirt road to the house. It was idyllic and beautiful with rolling hills filled with evergreen trees and acres of meadow.

Doug and my father became inseparable with Doug shadowing his every move. He helped his grandfather with all of the chores and was by his side day in and nights for several years.

He idolized and loved his grandfather. His grandfather, him. His grandfather took time to pass on to Doug values and a way of life. Taught him skills that he knew and how to work and be independent. He told Doug of the Piute Indians from whom he had learned to fish and hunt when he was a boy in Eastern Oregon, and live. He regaled Doug with stories of those days. It was his grandfather who realized that Doug was not looking people in the eyes. He instructed Doug on the importance of being able to look people squarely in the eye.

From my father, Doug learned how it was to be loved.

It wouldn't be until 20 some years later that I realized the profound impact this association with my father had on Doug.

When my father died, bereft, Doug was denied saying goodbye to his hero. This I lived to regret and will regret the remainder of my life. At the time, the thinking was that death was too traumatizing for children. They should not be forced to attend a funeral, and my mother requested that no children be in attendance. I didn't think anything of it.

Not until some 20 years later when Doug told me that when his grandfather's funeral possession drove by his school to the graveyard, he was standing outside and as he said: "like John Kennedy Jr., I stood at attention, saluting my grandfather as tears ran down my face because I couldn't be there."

He rued this fact his entire life, as did I.

As year's went by, Doug began emulating his grandfather as he remembered him. He began to dress like him wearing his signature Australian outback hat at all times, just as his grandfather always wore a hat.

He remembered his lessons at his grandfather's side, walked, talked and shaved as his grandfather. However, rather than a straight edge razor, he utilized a more modern one but clung to shaving soap in an old fashioned cup as my father used.

He honored his grandfather in everything he did. He remembered his grandfather his entire life and lived the lessons he learned from him. He kept his grandfather forever in his heart.

Lance, Laura, Lane, Lindsey & Lauren Lamb a Testament of Brotherhood and Friendship

Doug was so blessed with life long friendships that he cherished. Each one, loving, true and incredible friends to him. One established when they were 13 years old with Lance Lamb is an unforgettable and dedicated one. They were "there" for one another over the some 30 years they knew one another. The greatest gift for Doug was when Lance and Laura married and had their three children; Doug became Uncle Doug, a true part of the family.

He took his role as Uncle very serious and treasured it and the three children. They were his neices and nephew. We have a picture of Doug holding Lauren on the day of her birth, in the hospital nursery; the look of wonder and awe on his face, the obvious pure delight he felt at that moment, shines in his eyes and on his face. Lance laughed later saying that Doug got to hold her before he did. What true love and friendship they had.

Doug delighted in every visit, every birthday and holiday with his Lamb family.

This friendship outlasted Doug's life --- Lance continued as Doug's brother by being a son to me. He drove the extra 40 miles up the mountain often, after Doug's funeral, to make sure I was alright. He was there for me when Mac died; he buried him and held my hand along with his two daughters who came to give Mac a funeral and say goodbye.

Lance was there when I needed to erect Doug's headstone. With his tools and a bag of cement, he lovingly set the headstone at Doug's grave. He helped me prepare the site for grass seed.

How many friends like Lance do any of us have? He is an incredible jewel and the epitome of loving friendship and brotherhood. I know Doug would have done the same for Lance and his family. The two of them, Doug and Lance are, indeed, the essence of brotherhood.

Lance lovingly continues as Doug's brother; remembering him on holidays, going up and checking on his grave to ensure that it is cared for andLe maintained. Letting all know that his brother, Doug, is not forgotten!

How blessed we are!

A Poem for Doug

I only met you a short time ago

Wish I could have seen all that you know;

I reached out and showed what’s to see,

Knew you had the spirit same as me.

The journeys we’ve traveled short and long,

Journey in time we both had a song.

With now your spirit reach out and touch

Others and brothers, your mother loves you so much.

A tale will tell of one who saved lives,

Tale of one with cost for his drives.

Will now be the time to reach out and tell;

Tell of those things that you did so well?

Of dreams you had and ones that you shared;

Dreams to reach out and show that you cared.

To be is, for now, in your next life;

Come for the plow, a horse and a wife.

Your spirit is now free to reach out

Spirit of life without a doubt.

Is and what was and now meant to be,

Free for the calling for those who can see.

We shared your dreams!!!

Share your spirit!

Composed and written for Doug, the week he died -- by Keith Till 16 July 2006

Doug's Legacy

One of the things that I admired and loved Doug so much for was his "never give up" attitude.

When he decided to become a paramedic, the education part of it was absolute torture as was the education part of becoming an Air Flight Mechanic; as well as his junior college and University of Oregon education.

He struggled and was discouraged but he never gave up.

He kept at it always passing with his class. This was no minor feat for him, it was a major struggle to overcome his ADD and anxiety of testing.

How many times I stood by my son as he struggled with his studies fighting his fear of failure and panic in order to pass his tests. He became a paramedic and when life threw him another hurdle, broken back, he struggled through it again to get his FCC license and Air Frame Mechanic, etc. certification.

He was well aware of his limitations and fought hard to overcome them in order to "be just like everyone else," and "pull his own weight" by earning a living.

Even after the MEK chemical exposure so injured and harmed him, he was more limited but was aware of it and worked that much harder to try to overcome it. The MEK however, caused him to have terrible and serious "melt downs." Each time he recovered but it got harder and harder as the damage ravaged his body.

More often than not, Doug greeted us with his huge, beautiful smile regardless of what he had endured or just gone through. He was a happy man by nature and his love, laughter, humor and good heartiness never ceased.

Only once in a while, when the struggle was particularly hard did he tell me, but even than without self pity, "I so wish I weren't so retarded, Mom. I know that I am an embarrassment to my friends and family."

How I prayed that he didn't have to feel this way. It must have been awful to feel that way. But, as always, he found a way to laugh and make someone he loved laugh.

This is why I believe that my son was one of the bravest men I've ever known!

That kind of strength is incredible. One in which I was in awe his entire life.

Doug's Friend, Brett with Chyna 2007

Doug's friend, Brett Mcclure,(since age 5) walking with Doug's remaining dog, Chyna, in the forest area that Doug loved so much.
Doug's friend, Brett Mcclure,(since age 5) walking with Doug's remaining dog, Chyna, in the forest area that Doug loved so much.

Justess at Uncle Doug's grave 2008

Doug's Resting Place under three Oak Trees
Doug's Resting Place under three Oak Trees

Such Beauty and Friendships

In my email one morning, I found this message. I don't know who Shay is or who wrote this but it gives a very clear message. One I've seen in action over 40 years with my son, Doug. One that exemplifies his many, loving and loyal friends. We are so blessed as was Doug; because of, perhaps, his afflictions, he attracted and was given incredible friendships throughout his life which balanced the cruelty he experienced from others.

"At a fund-raising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.' "

Epilog - I knew very early that I would lose my son

Call it intuition, devine message, whatever;one of the songs played at Doug's funeral, "Go Sit High on That Mountain," by Vince Gill was destined to play in tribute to my son acknowledging his very tough life. I first heard it, about 10 years ago; it so touched me, thinking how much this song was made just for Doug that I wept. I cried every time I heard it and told my son, Randy that one day we would play it at Doug's funeral. I just knew.

When Doug was going on 3 years old, I dreamt the same identical dream for 3 nights consecutively. Each time waking, sitting up in a cold sweat with tears rolling down my face.

In my dream, Doug was sitting on a stage with a broken arm, he was a young boy. Doctors were treating him for the wrong thing and I knew that he was in danger if I couldn't get them to listen to me.

In frustration of being ignored, I left the room. Deciding that I needed to be in there to try to get them to listen to me, I began to return. I was met by Doug's father storming through a set of large, church like double doors, scrowling at me. As I turned to enter I was met by funeral music. That is when I would awaken.

I had no doubts from that time that Doug was going to be different. Doug was going to need my protection and for me to be strong enough to stand up for him and with him in his life.

As years rolled by I forgot about the dream until Doug was 18 and was having some health issues. He asked for my help. As I weighed the facts trying to decide if he should handle it with coaching or if I needed to step in, the memory of the dream hit me. I stepped in, perhaps saving his life.

From that day forward, I didn't hesitate and became my son's advocate and within 20 years his full time caretaker.

There is no rational explanation. It was simply something I knew, without doubt, that this was my role as Doug's mother. Just as I knew, without doubt, when I first heard "Go Sit High on That Mountain." Just as Doug, knew that his time was coming and he began preparing for it by tying up loose ends in his life. And I tried to pretend that there was nothing to worry about. If I ignored it, it wouldn't happen. Especially when Doug tried to tell me; he said he had seen a white owl and asked if I knew the significance of a person seeing a white owl. There is no way that I could tell him or acknowledge that I knew Native American Indian lore of the messenger of a person's forthcoming death. A harbinger. I simply couldn't face this knowledge. I am now sorry that I didn't sit with him and talk of it. He was trying to tell me of his leaving: soon.

I am so grateful for the 46 years and 11 months that I had Doug in my life. I am so grateful that I got to be his mother. I am so grateful that he seemingly went peacefully "into the night" whilst sleeping which we presume is a peaceful death. That God granted him a peaceful death after so much suffering and pain that he faced in his lifetime, is a blessing to me.

Below is a site that will take you to Doug's music, should you wish to hear it. "Go Sit High on That Mountain" is track 2. Other songs are some of Doug's favorites such as David Gray, Robbie Robertson, Johnny Cash, etc. About a month before he died, he gave his brother David Gray's "White Ladder" album telling Randy that if he listened he would know how Doug felt, that this album spoke for Doug. I've learned to love it.

The other songs are songs that remind me of Doug, his philosophies, his life, his personality, his likes and dislikes. The last two by Sarah Brightman and and earlier track by Sarah McLauglin are for me to Doug.

Each song brings me close to Doug.

Horrors of Psychiatric Care

Doug and I learned and experienced so much about the state of psychiatric and neurological help in the 20th and 21st Century. It alarmed us at times. Doug was caused much damage both physically, mentally and legally.

The Horrors of Psychiatric Care in the 21st Century was written to tell of our experience. Please see my other HUB pages to read about it. Perhaps it will help you avoid these situations or, at best, help you make decisions that are right for you and yours.

We wish you a safe journey.

Tombstone Dedication

In Memory Of

Laurie, My cousin, Beth and Stan Sayles, who lost their beautiful daughter, Laurie, at age 40 to cancer;

Sherry, my Sister-in-Law, Kathy McPheeters, who lost her beautiful daughter, Sherry, who was in her 30s.

Luke, my nephew's wife, Kristi McPheeters, who lost her precious son, Luke, at age 14 to Leukemia.

To each of these incredible mothers, thank you for being my guide, for listening to my tears and showing me how to cope. I am so very sorry that you knew and understood them. That you too lost your beautiful child.


"The call of the wild is a restless voice, strong as a tall oak tree and with the yearning to be free. It is the will within to venture where few have trod, a captive sound that makes a heart pound - it must be the voice of God. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept my faith."

II Timothy

Our Doug

Doug at 2; Doug w new born of close friend; Randy and Doug, brothers
Doug at 2; Doug w new born of close friend; Randy and Doug, brothers

Ode to Sorrow

We are left alone with our sorrow

wondering if it will be better tomorrow.

That vast emptiness dwelling inside

where it seems forever to abide.

I've never known sorrow so deep

than when you left forever in your sleep.

I held you in my arms and cried

caressed your face singing you lullabies.

They came for you, I could not bear

and took you to I know not where.

I couldn't believe that you were no longer here

Too soon I see you in your bier.

Today we must bury you deep

My soul cries and I weep.

The sorrow shared for now

by friends and family as they allow.

A year goes by and then two.

You are gone, you were my glue.

Alone now I must mourn

My tears flow strong my heart is torn.

Friends and family, they cannot bear

the sorrow I carry, but they care.

Don't show me your sorrow, they say

I have my own.

Instead, simply give smiles and sunshine for the day.

For you must carry your own;

I must carry mine --

for I have no strength to loan.

For my son, Doug Hudson

by: his Mother

Kathleen Hudson


A Child is Loaned

“I’ll lend you for a little time

a child of MINE,” He said,

For you to love the while he lives

and mourn for when he’s dead.

It may be ten or eleven years,

or twenty-two or three,

but will you, till I call for him back,

take care of him for ME?

He’ll bring his charms to gladden you;

and should his stay be brief.

I cannot promise he will stay,

since all from earth return,

But there are lessons taught down there

I want this child to learn.

I’ve looked this wide world over

in MY search for teachers true,

And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes,

I have selected you.

Now will you give him all your love,

nor think the labor vain,

Nor hate ME when I come to call

and take him back again?”

I fancied that I heard them say;

“Dear LORD, YOUR will be done.

For all the joy YOUR CHILD shall bring

the risk of grief we’ll run;

We’ll shelter him with tenderness,

we’ll love him while we may;

And for the happiness we’ve known,

forever grateful stay.

But should the angels call for him

much sooner than we’ve planned,

We’ll brave the bitter grief that comea

and try to understand.”

Author unknown

I pray for acceptance, peace and comfort for each of us learning how to live without our loved one.


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    • romneykat profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Near San Francisco, CA

      My Dear Micha

      You brought tears to my eyes to know that our Doug continues to help and encourage others --as he always did in life; as well as our beloved Mac. Their spirit lives on in you now.

      God's hand surely is at work.

      May God bless you and be with you holding you in his loving arms as you continue on your journey.

      I am so sorry for your hard journey at your young age. Continue to be strong and believe in yourself. Having your Mother with you on this journey is indeed a blessing. So many times Doug was weary and wondered if he should continue the battle for his benefits. He would rest awhile and rise back up with a resounding, yes! He was worth it. So are you.

      I understand your fear of a judge -- anyone with that much power over our lives is frightening. Do remember while in front of the judge that you are honest, deserving and humble. The judge will read this in you and appreciate it.

      I'm so glad that you have Archie. What a blessing.

      Thank you so very much for telling me of you and Archie and how Doug has helped to give you some strength to continue your journey.

      Doug and Mac have been in God's loving realm now for 3 years and their presence is always with me. Such loving comfort and blessings.

      I will keep you and your mother in my prayers.


    • profile image

      Micah j. Warren 

      9 years ago

      I never knew your son, but stumbled on your site looking up pictures of staffordshire terriers and by the grace of god. My best friend is my Staffy Archie. I see so much of myself in how you have described your son. My back is broken in 3 different places aswell as my neck, right shoulder and both ankles among other injuries incurred after a fall of over 45ft. I also reinjured my back when I was working for a glass factory. They denied me workers comp. because of the earlier injuries. I have had trouble learning my whole life, but some how made it through w/ much help from my wonderful mother. I was also an EMT for a while. Any way your sons story has inspired me to get up and try again. I have tried for disability and medical through the state and for some reason my young age is a factor and the fact that I worked through the pain in for nearly 7 years means they won't help. I am terrified to go infront of a judge and because of so many denials no lawyer will take my case unless I pay upfront. Anyway you story of Doug has inspired me to face my fears as he did and reaply and take it all the way to my hearing with or with out a lawyer. My mother has said she will represent me and I know she will do better than any lawyer apointed to me. Thank you and thank Doug. God bless you and your family.

    • profile image


      9 years ago


      As I sit here bawling my eyes out, I feel so very honored to know you. You are truly an inspiration and I admire your strength and courage. I had no idea of all your trials and tribulations. You are so gifted with your ability to write and express your heart and soul. You are a remarkable person. I am proud to be your friend!!

      All my love & Hugs.


    • profile image

      Joan, Jeff's Mom 

      9 years ago

      Tightest hugs from another Mom who lost her son.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      My friend, this should be published.

      You have told "Doug's Story" so well.

      I would like to see it made into a movie.

      The tears are still in my eyes.

      God Bless You, You have been

      a blessed mother. And a blessing

      to Doug and all who now read...

      "Doug's Story."


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