Saturday, September 25, 2010

Life changes...happy and sad.

I said I would be better about updating things and I guess its like Murphy's Law. You make a pledge to yourself to do something and Murphy says "Oh I don't think so!" *sigh*

No sooner did I post that last message when I got the word that a dear dear friend of mine was in the hospital again.

For some background--I grew up on the stage. Literally. From the time I was barely old enough to talk, I've been singing, dancing, and performing. I had the amazing opportunity to grow up in an organization called Oklahoma Kids. Every weekend we travelled the state doing shows, competitions, benefits, whatever. I performed all the time and I loved every minute of it. I met so many people from all over the state who became a second family to me. These are people who were like me. We loved each other like brothers and sisters, and their parents became like our own. We competed against each other, but it was always friendly and we were genuinely happy for others when they beat us, and they were happy for us when we had the opportunity to win. It taught us all so many positive life lessons. We became gracious losers and humble winners. We learned teamwork. We learned respect. We learned compassion. We learned to accept change and how to improvise. We learned how to take care of ourselves and each other, and how to be confident. It was a different childhood from most, and i wouldn't trade it for the world.

This was my life from about age 8 until I was out on my own. In 1985 I met Darrell at an Oklahoma Kids event. I remember like it was yesterday. He was a couple of years older than I am, and relatively quiet and shy...until we got to know each other. Darrell never had a bad attitude, always a smile and a joke. He was one heck of a dancer. He was my first dance partner. Darrell and I did tap and jazz together, and when we were in the OK Kids road show, we were often paired together. As a partner goes, there was none better. He was always cautious of the girls he danced with, and their safety was always his concern. Darrell took great care of all of us girls on stage, and off. He was like a big brother, and nobody had better mess with us. Thats just how he was. Everyone has people that they dislike in life, and nobody can please everyone all the time, but Darrell was different. He got along with everyone, and nobody ever got angry or disliked him.

Darrell was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 17. That began a string of hospital stays constantly over the years. He learned to manage the disease himself, but often would take care of others at his own risk. He never thought about what he needed until others around him were taken care of. When Darrell got married and had a son, his whole world became taking care of Aldren. He lived for that boy.

About 2 years ago Darrell started going into renal failure. He began rigorous rounds of dialysis and landed on a transplant list needing a kidney and pancreas. If he had needed just a kidney, there were dozens of us Oklahoma Kids lined up ready to donate for him. Unfortunately, what he needed couldn't be donated by a living donor. He continued to decline in health, but his spirit had never changed. No matter how sick he was, he always had a smile and encouraging words for you.

It was about that time that I was in OKC to see him and his mom for the day and Darrell and I took a drive. He took me down to the memorial from the Oklahoma City bombing. I hadn't been there since a couple of days after it happened, so I had not seen the memorial. We walked around it and took it all in, all the while having a pretty deep conversation. Darrell and I talked about faith and spirituality. I knew he was unhappy in his marriage, and I had just been through a hellacious divorce, and had found happiness with my husband. I longed to share that with him, and he was so happy for me. I remember him telling me that I deserved to finally find someone to treat me right. I remember him telling me he wished he could have more kids. He didn't want Aldren to grow up without having brothers or sisters. He missed dancing. He didn't think he'd be able to see his son grow up without that transplant and that worried him. Darrell was a believer in Christ, though, so while he was concerned for what he might leave behind. I don't think he was afraid of dying.

Fast forward to July. Darrell had divorced his wife and was finding happiness again. He had just moved back in with his mom and was helping her out. He was having a really rough time of things health-wise though. For weeks he wasn't sleeping, having trouble breathing, feeling sick, etc. One morning Debby found Darrell unconscious on the floor and he was rushed to the hospital. His blood sugar was over 1700...which was as high as the meter went. For 3 weeks he was in ICU on a ventilator and relatively unresponsive, though I did get him to squeeze my hand a few times, and he DEFINITELY hated when the nurses came in to brush his teeth. We tried everything under the sun to get him to wake up. He was hanging on for something but we had no idea what that was. We just wanted him to wake up.

He was moved to a long term care facility after a few weeks, but nothing seemed to work. He was slipping away from us. For those who knew Darrell, his nickname was "Flash". That was because Darrell was NEVER in a hurry or rush for anything...and I mean anything. We just figured in typical Darrell fashion he was taking his own sweet time to make his way from this earth to Heaven. It was finally decided that they would remove him from machines and let him peacefully pass. Even then what we anticipated to take a few hours took nearly 2 days. It was only after his mom came into his room to tell him that arrangements had been made and his son would be taken care of that he finally let go, less than 5 minutes later.

As we all grew up and went our separate ways, the last year or so we had all been pushing to get together for a reunion of all of us OK Kids who had grown up with such a unique bond. Darrell got his wish as most of us were reunited for his memorial service last weekend. While it was a celebration of a life lived to the fullest, it was a sad time, as we said goodbye to a unique spirit that would be forever in our hearts. Many of us had not seen each other in close to 20 years or more, and it was like we had seen each other last week. We talked, reminisced, laughed, and cried (Thanks alot Tim). Darrell brought out the best in so many of us, both as people and as performers. He taught and inspired us all. We love him, and his family, and we are so proud of his little boy, who is a carbon copy of Darrell in so many ways.

Darrell, I miss you, and I love you dearly. We will dance again in Heaven...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read in memory of a friend. I didn't even know him, and could feel that I missed him. I'm so sorry for your loss, and I hope that time is softening the pain of it while keeping him alive in your heart.