Life is the Adventure

For the past several days I had been working on an article about the opening day of trout season which will be here tomorrow.  It was nearly complete and I planned to put the finishing touches on it today.  That was until I got a call this morning that my Uncle Doug had passed away. Now, this wasn’t entirely unexpected, as he had been given a very pessimistic prognosis nearly three years ago, but in typical Uncle Doug fashion, he was going to do even this on his own terms. If I had asked my Uncle if I should write about how he influenced me or about trout fishing, he’d probably call me a fool for not choosing the latter.

Most of you that read this didn’t know my Uncle Doug and probably are wondering why I’d even write about this. I will say that if you didn’t know him, and talk to anybody that did, you will soon realize that you missed out on one of life’s greatest treasures. This column is about Life’s Adventures, and at times I think we spend so much time looking for our adventures, that we overlook life itself. My Uncle Doug figured out how to live life so life was his adventure and I wanted to share some of the things that I learned from him.

Follow your passions…

UncleDougWithDogsMy Uncle was never one to chase after the corporate prize. He had no aspirations of climbing the corporate ladder and probably from the outside, looking at his varied careers, many would think that he lacked direction. But they’d be wrong. He had a direction…and that was the direction in his heart…and he followed that to the end. My Uncle’s one true passion was dogs…training dogs…boarding dogs…and hunting with dogs. Even as he dabbled in things such as law enforcement and various trades, the one common thread was his dogs. The financial planning types would probably question this as a source of sustainable income, but my Uncle made it work…and the funny thing was, it wasn’t work to him. It was his passion. A passion that took him all across this great big country, introduced him to all likes of people, and always put a smile on his face. He and I were talking last fall and he made a comment to me that people would pay him to go play in the woods and spend time with their dogs. He kind of chuckled as if he had gotten away with something he shouldn’t have…and looking back on it, maybe he did. Everybody’s passion is different…but when you find yours, follow it.

Tell your story…

UncleDougAndPatNobody could tell a story like my Uncle Doug. I don’t know if it was his rich life experiences or if it’s something the son of a preacher is born with, but he could tell a story so real you could smell the fragrance of a forest in autumn, hear the giggle of a mountain stream, and feel the cool damp air on the valley floor. He could take you to the exact spot, to the specific moment in time that birthed the story, always draped in humor, and told in a way that kept you wanting for more. Even as a kid, I still remember family gatherings and I’d be glued to his stories. I never quite knew if the story was fact or fiction or where the line between those fell, but I did not really care. I just loved the story. In the early eighties he used to speak to youth groups and I remember a story about a turtle parking lot…which was nothing more than a fence post that he’d set his turtle on…and it couldn’t wander off because its feet would just swing in the air. I’m sure there was a point to the story, but I remember the image perfectly as if he told it to me yesterday. His story telling was truly a gift and with each story he gave us a little bit of himself for us to remember. I don’t know for sure, but I think God wanted a few more people to hear some of these stories, and gave him a little more time on this earth to share them. Don’t be afraid to tell your story…it may be the exact thing that someone needs to hear.

Be who you are…

When my Uncle Doug spoke at my Dad’s funeral he said that we chose him because we wanted someone to speak who wouldn’t embarrass himself by crying in front of everyone. He proceeded to say, “Oh, I’m going to cry, I just won’t be embarrassed”. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in those words and that pretty much sums up how my Uncle lived his life. He was not going to let anybody’s impression of him get in the way. He was going to be who he was. He was going to say what he needed to say, whether it was his take on the best hunting dog, politics, the best place to fly fish, or his faith. He didn’t expect his opinion to necessarily sway you or change your mind, though at times I’m sure he probably wished it would. He’d accept you for who you were and hoped for the same in return. I’m pretty confident that my Uncle put doing or saying the right thing above worrying about what people thought about him for doing or saying it.

UncleDougLookingAwayI’m going to dearly miss my Uncle Doug, miss him for his wit, his smile, his passion for God’s creation, his attachment to his dogs, his love for his family, his seemingly unshakable faith, his laughter as he’d tell a great story, his big cowboy hat, and his even bigger heart. But, I know that a piece of him lives on in all those who knew him and I’m thankful for what I learned from him. I learned that we need to live, laugh, love, and let down our guards and not worry so much. That we need to share our stories, our faith, and our wisdom. That we need to stop living our days like we have unlimited tomorrows. That we need to stop looking for adventure, and just live the adventure that we’ve been given. That we need to treat each day as if it’s our last chance to follow our passions, to tell a story, to say good-bye.

I’m going to miss you Uncle Doug….Heaven got a little bit sweeter today.

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6 Comments

  • Lee Gangaware says:

    Beautiful writing! Read it to Polly and she smiled and had a tear.

  • Betty George says:

    That wonderful gift of writing has certainly not ended with your Uncle Doug’s passing! You got it covered perfectly, Craig! Keep that adventure going! I loved your grandparents, Howard and Gladys, your uncles and aunts when they were kids, your mom and dad, and your song for your uncle and your beautiful words here have made my heartstrings pull you into that circle, even though I don’t know you personally. I hope to get to read more descriptions of your adventures. God bless you as you carry on the legacy!

  • Dan Steingraber says:

    I was lucky enough to meet your Uncle Doug through a Facebook page about bird dogs and fly fishing. I was almost immediately impressed with his willingness to offer his advice and even his time to even the most rank amateur with a dog training issue. This January Doug mentioned that a friend was coming down to Rasawek and if anyone else would like to come just let him know. I was instantly struck with a strong sense that I should go and without so much as checking my schedule or talking to my wife I let Doug know that I’d like to come. I had no idea that your uncle was battling stage 4 cancer. We made the necessary arrangements and I met Doug and his friend Don Keddy at Rasawek and learned of your uncles cancer and that Don had also had a tough go with cancer recently and that they became close during their mutual battles. It was a moving spiritual experience for me to spend the day with these fine men as they were spending one last day afield and I felt a deep and special bond. A few weeks ago Doug posted that he was hoping to find the right homes for his personal dogs and again, even though I had 3 dogs already I felt immediately compelled to take one of his dogs if he felt it was a good fit. He called and we discussed it and a few days later he sent me a message saying that he felt as though his time here was short and I should come for the dog. We had a wonderful visit at his kitchen table the night I got there and the next morning when we drove together to Rasawek to pick up Thicket (who is lying at my feet as I type this). You already know this but your uncle was a special man who it seems touched the life virtually every person he ever met in person or through social media. I know I’m a better man for our short time together and feel incredibly blessed, although somewhat unworthy to have a little piece of your Uncle Doug in this beautiful Setter at my feet.

  • Opal DeLong says:

    Hi Craig,

    My thought and prayers are with you and all the family and fiends.

    What a beautiful tribute to Uncle Doug who was a great guy!! He’s up there with your dad and the rest of the family.

    Love and God Bless you,

    Opal (I John 4:4)

  • Beejay LaPierre says:

    I have long-ago, yet great memories of Doug, as well. I love it that he was true to himself and I appreciate his efforts to reach Mountain Top youth for Christ during that time. In ministry, he was a role-model to me, long before I had teens of my own.

  • Vicki Dubuque says:

    Craig,what a lovely tribute to your Uncle Doug!! I remember him well,he used to come into 4 stars for his Coffee & Paper every morning!!! While he was sitting @ the counter reading the paper,he would occasionally make a comment about something he had just read!!! Usually Very Funny!!!! He always made the morning very bright!!! I also seem to remember when we were teenagers that he may have spoken @ one of the fall campfires our youth groups would have in Maplecrest,and it was not boring!!! If I have him confused with someone else I’m sorry!! I just hope my memory is not faulty!!! I’m sorry for the loss you & your family has suffered,but you know he’s in Heaven making god Laugh!!!’
    By the way Craig (if memory serves) I remember your first writing assignment!!!! LOL!!!

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