On Sunday, January 15, 2012 my 65 year old brother Doug lost his battle against the debilitating affects of juvenile diabetes. Below is my tribute that I presented at his memorial service held on Saturday, January 21st.
“Welcome. I first give honor to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is first in my life. He has given me the strength and courage to stand before you this morning to reflect on the life of my brother William Douglas Wilson.
As I was preparing this Reflection, I realized that what we do and go through is to prepare us for unforeseen events that will come into our lives. I feel as if I am here about to do the welcome as I do at my home church Green Grove Baptist under the leadership of my pastor Reverend George E. Holland, Sr. in West Berlin, New Jersey. The purpose of this reflection is due to the fact that some of you never met my brother and are here to support me or a family member; or you may not have seen Doug in many, many years because that is the dynamics of life.
Doug was the oldest of the first set of my father’s children by my mother Dorothy. We were raised in Germantown during the 50s and 60s. In addition to Doug there is my brother, Avon who we call Eddie a retired Philadelphia Police Officer, my brother Eric, a Licensed Minister and Author and my sister Lisa Ann Davis who passed away in July of last year. It was a full house of five rowdy children who were raised not only in a house with both parents; but we were also raised by the surrounding neighbors because both parents worked. Later when my father remarried, he added a daughter January Nicole, an Author and a brother Paul Owen, a Business Manager.
But we are here today to celebrate the life of my brother, “Big Doug” Wilson. “Big Doug” is what he was called when we were in high school because of his size. He was almost 6 foot and weighed 211 pounds.
In high school all of my brother’s friends called me “little Doug”. I don’t think they ever really knew my real name. I was almost 5’4” and less than 100 pounds soaking wet.
On the night of my high school graduation, my brothers Eddie and Doug went out celebrating, while I sat home alone on our front porch. After a while one of the most popular boys in our high school stopped by looking for my brother. He said, “Little Doug what are you doing still home on your graduation night?” He could not understand why I was not out celebrating with everyone else. So he invited me to join him and I was thrilled. This was one of the most popular boys in Germantown and here I was riding around with him. I have to say he was a perfect gentleman. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and he dropped me off at the end of the evening well before midnight. Well when Doug found out that Pookie took me out, he had a fit. Of course I didn’t know what the big deal was. I also didn’t know about Pookie’s reputation either, but Doug did and he tore into him; just like big brothers are suppose to do.
Years later, I ran into another of Doug’s friends, I was 30 at the time, sitting in a restaurant eating with my mother when out of the blue came, “Hey Little Doug how are you doing?” Even to this day I believe if I live long enough, I will hear that tag line again.
As time passed, we lived separate lives and didn’t see each other as much; just because our different lifestyles got in the way. But as I worked with Jackie to put this service together, I learned a lot about my brother that I either forgot or didn’t know.
In High School he was known as “Big Doug” for his size, but as he matured into manhood, he was known as “Big Doug” for his heart. Doug was generous to his family and friends and was there when they needed him. After years of auto body painting, Doug was injured on the job and retired on full disability. He eventually trained at Americorp and became a volunteer. His preference was to tutor and mentor children with mental and physical challenges.
In 1985 Doug and Jacqueline Mendez met and fell in love. The challenge for their relationship was that it was a package deal. Jackie had a severely handicapped eight year old little boy by the name of Jose. When Doug expressed his interest in Jackie, she told him if you want me, you have to accept my son. Jackie said without hesitation he told her about our brother with cerebral palsy…and said no problem. As the pictures tell the story, their lives grew and molded together where the three of them were in separable until now. Doug accepted Jose as his own and loved him dearly. As Jose grew to love Doug, he began to look like Doug and act like Doug. Jose who has cerebral palsy is unable to speak clearly but is able to call Doug “Pop”. It will be hard for him to understand that Pop won’t be coming home from the hospital this time; but he will understand what it means that Pop is in heaven with God. Jackie is a woman, who in my brothers’ life, was second to none. She is less than 5’ tall but her stature over shadows us all. She was my brother’s advocate with each hospital stay and recently won a battle with Harrisburg to extend Doug’s benefits for home care when he was ready to come home. She was able to be his helpmate and wife and still be an excellent mother to Jose. She has spent 27 years of her life loving my brother and I want to publically thank her. “Thank You Jackie…I love you.” Together they have poured love into the lives of their son Jose and several special needs children in Philadelphia. As you saw in the pictures his life was surrounded by the loves of his life, Jackie, Jose and their dogs Goldie and Ginger. I ask you to continually pray for Jackie and Jose as they begin a life without “Big Doug”.
My relationship with my brother has always been a bit complicated. Our family has been gifted by God to be intelligent and strong minded. With these personality traits we have been able to overcome our life challenges. But these personality traits can also be a double-edged sword. Doug and I both have little or no tolerance for those who think they are more than what they really are. Where I believe I have a bit more give, he didn’t pull any punches or mince his words, if he felt you were wrong…you were wrong. There were no gray areas for him and at times that made it difficult to stay in his presence. But over the past couple of years, I was blessed to reconcile with Doug and his family. My love for my brother rekindled and he was “Big Doug” to me again even though he was wheelchair bound.
Doug died from the effects of juvenile diabetes which took control of his life at age 14. In 1999 he had a kidney transplant. In 2006 he suffered from a stroke but survived and was able to lead a productive life. In 2011, Doug was on the list again for a new kidney. He was called 7 times to the hospital but each time turned away. In September he entered the hospital for a long stretch until his death. A week before his death, they amputated one of Doug’s legs. He was doing well and was facing another series of operations to remove his colon, gall bladder and a hernia pressing against his back. Doug suffered over the last several months from a lot of pain. At the end, the infection took over his body and they were unable to stop it. We were by his side when he passed and I am happy to report to you that his passing was peaceful and quiet. He truly looked like he just went to sleep and decided not to wake.
Doug had a very strong opinion about his relationship with God. He knew and respected that God existed, but just like many, was not convinced or fully understood Jesus’ role in the relationship. His years of service and works demonstrated to the world how good a man he was; but he didn’t quite grasp how Christ died for our sins and the need to accept him as his Lord and Savior was more important than just good works. But then as fall changed to winter he accepted Christ and I know without a doubt that I will see my brother again when it’s my turn to enter Heaven’s Gates. I also know that I will hear, “How you doing Little Doug?” because my big brother united with his friends who had gone on before him let them know that I am on my way to heaven too.”