Yesterday I mentioned my friend Doug, back in North Carolina, who is battling cancer. Well, at nearly the same time I was writing those words, Doug passed away, peacefully and finally free of pain.
When I got his wife Heidi’s email with the news, I felt stunned by the loss of this wonderful friend. And here I sat, on the other side of the world, living a life of peace while in North Carolina such a hard thing was happening to his wife and family. I didn’t know what to do.
So I did what I felt I needed to do: I went and spent time with my two favorite grown lions, Zion and Trust. Doug would have like these lions and they would have liked them. They’re the strong silent type, too, with more going on below the surface than appears. I told them about Doug and his family and explained what had happened. The lions seemed to listen, one even cocking his head as if he were contemplating it all.
When I first met Doug, I thought he didn’t like me because he so rarely said anything to me. In time I came to understand that Doug, like the lions, didn’t feel he had to insert himself into every conversation. He listened, and he listened carefully.
This past year, I’ve met Doug at a dog park every Sunday morning. While we sat on a bench in the sun, we watched our dogs, Ellie and Milo, play with the other dogs who frequent the park. We talked about our lives and our work. I kept up on his two daughters’ busy lives. He talked about Carolyn and Kirstin so lovingly. He described how different they were and what their strengths and challenges were. He told of their accomplishments with pride.
As a matter of fact, I was sometimes surprised at how much he talked—how that silent Doug was stripped away by comfort and familiarity—and I discovered the intelligent, funny, and compassionate man he really was. Those dog park meetings were so important to me, and our conversations became a touchstone for the beginning of each new week.
I told Zion and Trust all this, and when I finished they began to roar. True, at sunset they often roar back and forth with the other lions here, but there was something about the timing of this particular roaring that made me feel they were doing it for Doug. They began with huffing and advanced to full roars and soon all the lions at Harnas were joining in the chorus. It was so intense I could feel the vibrations deep within my chest, and I felt comforted for the first time since I had heard the news of Doug. And Doug? I think he would have liked their tribute.