Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

October 14, 2009

Some thoughts on death and dying...

We've lost two good friends lately, within the last several weeks. John Montrose and Dorine Jesperson were neighbors and close church-going family with whom we have had many years of serving and socializing together in our Orem 1st Ward. John 79 died of a stroke, though appearing fit and active the night before. He had just been on a long car trip up and down the Alcan Highway with Celestia to visit a daughter in Alaska. He had served so long and well in so many capacities, the most endearing for us being as a missionary couple to Ireland with his wife, when our son Quinn was there from 1989-91. We'll miss his jovial manner and his wild ties, some of which Celestia put in a box and gave to our High Priest Group to be passed around and taken as a remembrance of him.

Dorine was even more of a shock at 70. Where did blood clots come from in her lungs, one going to the heart and shutting off blood supply to her kidneys, causing renal failure and loss of blood pressure? Just like that, though she had complained of being excessively tired the past few weeks, according to family. She was tall and thin and active, a half foot taller than her stout basso profundo husband Oscar, a fellow choir singer with Colleen and I over our years together. But he was the less healthy one - and if anyone was supposed to go, everyone thought it would be him first, when and if. They had visited with us many times as our home teachers, conversations that often centered more on family and current news than on just a Gospel lesson. We loved her and will miss her too.

The impact? Of course we feel these losses deeply. And we come closer in thought if not body to that brink they have now crossed and we have yet to. But these were immortals to us, standards of goodness we thought subconsciously would be here much longer. We never put a time limit on our friendship - and we know it will endure beyond this life, but the timing is bad for us too. It's just not supposed to happen - not so soon, not like this, just not. We've felt the same with losses in the past few years of Bud Herring, Paul Sabin, Russ Logan, Jane Mangum, Phoebe Thomas, Gary Anderson and more. But it's not our timetable and someone else is in loving charge. And these good folks had their lives in order when they left. Will we? We're so much works in progress!

But as I viewed Dorine, so lovely and serene in her coffin and tried to convey tender feelings to Oscar and family, I went back to when my mom died in 1990, the first time a close loved one had passed since my dad's mom died in 1960. I walked up to her casket, frankly numb and emotionless, having just flown in from Utah to DC and maybe in shock. My dad was very emotional - but I just touched her face, so beautifully cold and hard, pristine like alabaster. It was her mortal shell, the tabernacle of her eternal spirit which was now not there. I knew that, but somehow it was still profoundly mysterious to me.

I accept the resurrection of Christ and His gift of that to all of us. It's all on faith. And though that's not tested when I attend a funeral viewing, it is still a bit incomprehensible. I know it will happen for me, though I always thought I would be caught up to meet Jesus when he came - and I'm still holding out some possibly vain hope, though I'm not sure how I'd handle the heights. My wife definitely has that fear and if we go up together, she's going to be clutching me as if we were hang gliding, and hopefully not dragging me back down to earth so we miss the whole "rapture" thing.

But I'd rather deal with that than death itself, because we are so indecisive about coffins (can they make me a double wide?) and we have no plots yet and wonder if we should just go with cardboard to save money - or do the cremation option and start picking out some exotic Celtic urn, Irish to the end. But who would want to keep it around the house? We're still supposed to get a plot for that? I'm all for mixing our ashes together in some macabre romantic rite - but then how will we be resurrected, all tangled up and possibly getting the wrong limbs? Or should we both be scattered to the four winds - but where? Together or separate? Because I know she's going to choose downtown Omaha and I'm more partial to Mount Timpanogos. So many questions, so little time, literally. I guess that's why we try to avoid thinking about it until it is thrust upon us unexpectedly by a close friend's early demise. Then we realize it's still around the corner, down the hall, second door to the left.

And one more footnote. I got an email today from a girl I had sung with in high school choir, Carolyn Hill Couser, whose family I had taught the Gospel back in 1974. That happened because she and her husband Dyrk had seen a marquis with my name on it when Colleen and I were singing at a Holiday Inn in Beltsville MD where we lived at that time. We all got talking about religion when they came in one night. They weren't happy with their church, had known that I was LDS and had gone to BYU after hight school, and wondered if I would tell them more. I got permission to teach them, and they eventually all joined and I was able to baptize all but the youngest kids - or did I do it at all instead of the missionaries? Memory freeze!

In the past year or so, she had been emailing me about her life as I tried to keep track of how they were doing in Church. They had been very active in the College Park Ward after we left and moved to Virginia, she becoming the ward organist for some time. Then he retired from NSA and they moved back to his hometown, Punxsutawny, PA - and started going ecumenical and attending other churches. I was concerned for them and wrote to them off and on. He eventually left his wife for another woman, left the Church - and now she has stomach cancer and is under hospice care.

She called me today and we talked about it. She is resigned, but with a lot more faith, having returned to the LDS church in the past year, partly by being reactivated by a missionary couple, Bob and Connie Rose, whom Colleen and I knew well from DC and who have lived in Bountiful these many years we've been here too. Smallness of worlds! I am strengthened by Carolyn's faith in the plan of salvation and for being able to be calm and courageous in the face of death. I know it is a door and passage to the spirit world, where she will be free of pain, be reunited with loved ones and wait for her eternal assignment and continual resurrected progress in the mansions of the Savior she so believes in! I hope I have as much courage when my time comes. Right now, there's more work to be done and a messy house to still be put in order! It would be nice to have more time to work on that, hint hint.

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