Of Life and Death

This post is a bit more personal than my usual, but I wanted to share a different part of my life with you all. Yesterday my children were Baptized at Holy Name Church in Birmingham, MI. The day before, I visited my brother, Doug, as he lay dying. My children are beginning their lives. My brother’s life is ending.

I am not much of a “believer” type, though I am sure that there is much more to life than the material. I am the son of a non-believer Jewish father and non-believing Norwegian mother. Indeed, my mom’s father became an atheist when they tried to shove Catholicism down his throat at a time he wasn’t ready to swallow.

Still, it was good for me to share the same excitement, confusion, and even amusement that my children had during the ceremony. My oldest son, Julian age 8, was able to understand some of the meaning of the sacrament – about as much as this Jewigian, raised as a Unitarian understood. Like Julian, Aiden and Quinn, I also began to listen to the prayers and participated in the ceremony, I began to understand something about my own life, death and the rituals and what it all means.

At the same time, my brother Doug is very sick with a cancer that will likely end his life. I love my brother and the prospect of his passing is painful for me. As I stood near the Baptismal font, listening to the prayers and smelling the incense and oils, sometimes staring out the windows and watching snowflakes fall on an otherwise dark December day, my thoughts alternated between my children and my brother. I was hearing and smelling and feeling the voyage from life to death and to life again. I felt the Maker’s rage for order. The Baptism brought home to me that death and life are the same when seen through the prism of the Universe and its continuum.

I don’t know what happens when people die, but I think it is not the end of us. It seems strange, in this cold, dark December reality of life, there is a source of life eternal – my love for my brother and for my children. That love will never die and that love makes life (and death) so much more understandable.

28 Responses to Of Life and Death

  1. SoCalGal says:

    Mr. Fieger, I wish for you that God’s presence may be keenly felt by you as you proceed on your spiritual journey. A book that you may find challenging and enlightening is “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis. Lewis was an atheist at one time.

  2. Susan says:

    “To Live in hearts we leave behind….is not to die.”
    (Thomas Campbell)
    I am so sorry to read of your brother’s advanced illness Geoff. I will keep him in my prayers.

  3. Chris says:

    I knew Doug was really ill and has tried so many operations and treatments. I’m so sorry to hear it is this far along. Doug is a really great and caring person, I’ve enjoyed doing his (and your) websites for many years now. Whatever lies ahead for him, he will be okay; of this earth or not. I do not practice religion in a church, nor do I believe what the bible says and I was brought up Lutheran. I do believe there is something more than our physical being. I’ve had paranormal experiences in the past with relatives visiting me. I know there is more to us on this earth, or I would not have had these experiences. Geoff, my heart felt thoughts are with Doug and your family.



  5. Sue says:

    Geoffrey….I was touched by your words – happy for your children, but saddened by your brother’s demise. Is there Something or Someone in this Universe who knows the beginning from the end? Will the answer ever be revealed? I doubt it. Do I have the faith to believe? Perhaps.

    Why do bad things happen to good people? Will that answer ever be revealed? I doubt that, as well.

    Hold on to the love. Not only does it make life more understandable, it makes it so much more tolerable.

    The ebb and flow of life – so delicately beautiful. Enjoy the presence of those you love. Hold them close during this Holiday Season and always.

    You tried to help me once – I need your help again.


  6. Robin Humphrey says:

    So sorry to hear of your brother’s pain and your family’s struggle with an ugly disease and possible tormenting loss. I am a believer and as such believe that God does have perfect order. As cliche and simple as it sounds, everything does happen for a reason. I have had a turn of events not anything like a human death, but a death in my life. I am not a litigous person by nature, but I feel I am being led to your office. I was recently wrongly terminated from my job at Citi, and my husband is out of work plus we have 3 kids. I am in shock. I posted a description of my case on your home page and I will pray you or someone there takes a strong look. I have been told by a few attorneys that I might have a good case, but they won’t do it because they know it might drag out and don’t want to invest the time or money for a potential big return..yes money, but the big return is justice that I am after. Yes, I have no money but I do feel God pushing me in your direction for justice. Not just for me, but for many people who work there. Proof should be easy to obtain. Maybe that’s why the attorney’s looking for quick cash said no..I was supposed to contact you. I pray you’ll call. God Bless & Merry Christmas to you and your family and know the greatest gift ever given is that of our King-Christ the Lord! Eternity rests in Him.

  7. Pete Dahl says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart, Geoff;
    May the story of the christ child who grew to be the messiah become personal for you and your brother.
    Merry Christmas,

  8. remy says:


    My condolences and prayers go out to you and your family. I am glad to see that you are developing Faith. Its never to late.


  9. george says:

    Irony , all the doctrine and formalistic who-ha
    are still with us because each persons life experience brings them to it.
    ” World without end. Amen”

  10. Patricia Jankowski says:

    Mr. Fieger, you are and have been for some time now one of my sources of inspiration and for that, I am most grateful.

    Off and on, I’ve studied the Course in Miracles. The teachings in the book and the writings of many authors whose works were inspired by it make a great deal of sense to me where nearly everything else has failed, and that’s why I pursue it. Some of those authors are Eckhart Tolle, Gary Zukav, and Carolyn Myss.

    One of the most basic teachings of the course is that the life we experience while we live on this planet is an illusion created by a mind, largely under control of what they call the ego. The reality, or real world, is the only true existence, and it is within our reach at all times, if we seek it. This reality is God, and it is also Love. It is One and we are all a part of it as a wave is a part of the ocean.

    We are all on a journey back to the real world. That is all life is. It is a place to learn.

    All that is not love, is merely a perversion of love, or a twisted form of love. It is a cry for healing. This includes all illness, all suffering, all violence, all fear.

    As we go through life, we may learn to let our faith guide us. Life is often a delicate balance of choice, and at every moment, we choose between our ego, or divine guidance, whose source is the real world.

    There is often much confusion about which voice we are hearing. It’s like a maze…and it is when we cannot hear the voice of the real world that we suffer and are not at peace with ourselves. In fact, that is the best way to tell which voice is speaking…does the voice bring peace and harmony, or disorder and pain?

    Mr. Fieger, as I’ve said before, there are few on this earth who can fight without violence for true justice. Most of us have a great deal of confusion about what justice even is.

    But I do not feel that you are one of those. You have a gift, which you are using to help us all. That is how I see it.

    There may be times when you are afraid because of the threats you’ve received, the hostility from those who disagree with you, etc…but you know, deep in your core, that you are on a good path, and so you continue.

    It takes tremendous courage and fortitude to follow such a path. I have tried to do even a fraction of this in my work with the Union and have felt the horrible pressures.

    You can follow your path because you are, in many ways, connected with this real world that is spoken of in the Course in Miracles. You can see what needs to be done, what is right, what needs to be stood up for, what is worth fighting for.

    And that, among many other things, makes you holy. Just as I am holy…just as we all are holy…but with a special gift.

    Again, I’m so very grateful for your gift, and I will pray that you have many opportunities to use it in 2010, and that also, as you use this gift, that you will find an everlasting peace and harmony within.

    May love always accompany you on your journey.

    Pat Jankowski, RN, LNC

  11. Melissa says:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    I couldn’t help but hear the song and melody of that Jackson Browne song “The Dancer” when you wrote “I don’t know what happens when people die”

    Which follows…Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try, like a song I can hear it playing right in my ear” I listened to that when I had to watch my own beloved father slowly leave our family.

    It is truly painful, but it sounds like even through this Dark December day -you found insight in one of life’s greatest mysteries.

    Being raised by one jewish mother, who was more a “Spiritualist” than a follower of any religion, and having a father who joked about religion with the same views George Carlin joked about itt. I don’t have any Religion based statements to make on this.

    Only that I do Believe in God as something Bigger than we know, as well as some sort of cycle. I like to believe that we all see our love ones again. As I have often heard about through author Raymond Moody, and Danion Brinkley who wrote “Saved by the Light” or Brian Weiss’s “Life after life”.

    I can only say that hours before our father left us. I had the honor of whispering in his ear (Hearing is the last to go) I love you Dad, we will Always be connected don’t hold on for us, let go only when you are ready- no matter where you are or go we’ll all catch up with you and I know I will see you again”

    I hope that helps. On a personal note I have met your brother a few times, such a positive person, and I pray for him and your family daily.

    Whatever god is to you…That’s all that matters
    . With Blessings ~Melissa~

  12. Michael Rowady says:

    Geoff– my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

  13. Bill Amidon says:


    My prayers are with you & Doug & family. I have tried to keep up with you and Doug through the years since we spent summers on “Little Crooked” with my Aunt Alice Young. Really proud of you both & feel so bad for Doug. Will definately keep you both in my daily thoughts & prayers.

  14. Thom Copp says:

    Our condolences from our family to yours. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
    If you believe in forever,
    Then life is just a one-night stand.
    If there’s a rock and roll heaven,
    Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band,

  15. beth says:

    Mr Fieger:

    I loved your brother’s music. Thanks for the blog.


  16. David G. says:

    Mr. Fieger,
    I would like me express my deepest sympathy on the loss of your brother, Doug. I am a big fan of Doug’s music and it is such a shame his fans won’t ever see or hear him live again. But Doug’s music will live on. Just as his personal legacy will live forever in the hearts and minds of his family and friends. Please take comfort in knowing that he is no longer in pain or experiences any of this life’s many anxieties. From your postings, I know you loved your brother very much and I hope your souls will someday be reunited for all eternity. May a higher power bless Doug, you and your family. David G.

  17. Dane Gussin says:

    Geoff, Dougie always had a smile and a good word for you when you saw him! Just a sweet guy. He gave all of us another reason to be proud of being from Oak Park!

    My sympathy to yourself and Beth and your families.

    Doug has left us his music to smile and sing too as we think of him.

    Dane Gussin (OPHS 68)

  18. Don says:

    Wow! I don’t know what to say. I was married to Elaine Cohen for 39 years. You knew Marty and Sara Cohen that lived on Harding in Oak Park. You know Alvie in Ervine, Ca. and Hedda. Being a Bigtime promoter in Michigan we never crossed paths but my heart is felt with sorrow for you. You are blessed, Jeff. Keep on doing the right things. Your palace (office) in Southfield is awesome! Take care. Remember the chocolate cake Mrs. Cohen use to make for you?

  19. john says:

    My condolences to you. I was a huge Knack fan. May he be in peace and look down upon your family.

  20. Harry Barbee says:

    God Bless You and your family .Mr Fieger made the world was a better place. Loved loved loved his music I just wish I had the pleasure of seeing him in person.I was going to see him in Charlotte last year but he had to cancel.I wanted to get a guitar signed because he was one of the best I bought my ticket just to see him .He was one of the greats.

  21. Hi Geoff,
    My deepest condolence to you. I met you at Doug’s wedding to my sister, Marin. Although it has been years since their divorce, she and Doug kept up a warm friendship, and she was with him the day before he died.
    I liked Doug tremendously. He was very talented and kind.
    My sister said he always asked about me, since I live in Nashville and didn’t see him for many years– which was so thoughtful.
    I am very, very sad about his passing. I can see there are many here who felt the same.
    My prayers are with you and your family.
    Hillary K.

  22. Karen Silverstein Waters says:

    Geoff, I remember Doug from elementary school when you and I were in sixth grade together. I was the one you teased mercifully always. I was quite taken back about Doug’s illness and his passing yesterday. We spoke at our 30th reunion and am glad you now have a growing family. May you and the rest of your family find peace together as you mourn Doug.

  23. Thank you for your words and feelings. They were, are and will be a comfort to me for the days I will be facing in this coming year. You will be in my prayers.

  24. Raza says:

    Dear Mr Fieger
    I just saw in the news that you brother Doug passed away. I am writing because I care for you, Doug and your family. Please accept my deepest condolences and the following song video for the dearly departed.

    “A Prayer”

    Written, Composed & Produced by Raza
    June 29, 2009

    I guess you had to go
    It’s hard to see you leave
    You gave so much of your love
    Guess for someone was hard to believe

    Will I ever see you again
    Do you know that we miss you my friend

    May you rest in peace
    And live another life of your dreams
    May the angels protect you under their wings
    God had smiled upon you
    And showed a path to the truth
    You were blessed with a loving soul and harmony

    Some people can be so cruel sometimes
    Consumed with hatred and jealousy
    No matter what, how good you treat‘em
    Will judge you and say whatever they please

    Most of us could see that you’ve been kind and patient
    When ever you were hurt by the people around
    I know it was hard to live a life you were living
    But some couldn’t see what the hell was going around

    May you rest in peace
    And live another life of your dreams
    May the angels protect you under their wings
    God had smiled upon you
    And showed a path to the truth
    You were blessed with a loving soul and harmony

    I want you to know that God is pleased Oh Yeah!
    Of you wanting the world to care for each other
    So please! Why don’t we let it be?

    May you rest in peace
    And live another life of your dreams
    May the angels protect you under their wings
    God had smiled upon you
    And showed a path to the truth
    You were blessed with a loving soul and harmony

  25. Don Jennett says:

    Geoffrey: I was a High School senior (and ‘music critic’ for both my school paper and another local publication) in the ‘South Bay’ beach area of Los Angeles when Doug and his band burst onto the scene. They absolutely dominated the radio that Summer and Fall of 1979. Since then I have followed his career with much interest, and I found your brother to be a unique and extraordinarily intelligent man. It is not an exaggeration to say that with his passing, I’ve lost a piece of my youth, but it is with a smile I will always remember him and those times. My condolences to you and your loved ones.

  26. Pamela S. Ovshinsky says:

    Dear Geoff and friends,

    My heartfelt condolences to you, Beth and your families.’ I met Doug when we were in 4th grade at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School in Oak Park, MI. His birthday was August 20, 1952 and mine was August 21, 1952. Even then he stood out as a brilliant leader and revolutionary with a passion for drama and politics, in addition to music. As a fifth grader he took it upon himself to stage “West Side Story,” Roosevelt’s first and maybe only student led musical play. I don’t recall whether he cast himself as Riff or Tony or Bernardo, or maybe he played all three?!

    When we were in 6th grade he invited me to see him perform the title role in a professional production of the play “Peter Pan,” in Detroit which inspired me to attend acting school at age 12.

    I remember being impressed with Doug’s outspoken admiration for Dag Hammarskold, U.N. Secretary General and international peace activist…how cool was that for a 5th or 6th grader to be so knowledgeable about world affairs?

    As we started 7th grade, the buzz was there would be a fierce musical rivalry between Doug and his perceived adolescent nemesis/wonderkind, Donnie Fagenson, (another all-around great guy); but to their credit, I believe the opposite was true–although, I do remember that Doug and his then sidekick (brother) Geoff became known for their “guerilla theatre” performances at Oak Park High…(Actually, I also recall a conversation with Geoff and Mr. Chess outside the high school auditorium at a school assembly where there was a speaker on teenage suicide, and I naively asked why was suicide illegal…but that’s another story.)

    I lost touch with Doug after high school, but followed his success over the years, as did many former Oak Parkers’ with pride. I was heartened to hear that he remained close to David Weiss, who could be referred to as the third party in the so-called Clinton musical triumvirate, in addition to his many friends and family, until the end.

    Doug was a “bright star” who passed from our world way too soon. He will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.

    Pam O.
    Petoskey, MI
    (OPHS ’70)

  27. Nicole says:

    I have been holding onto the article that was in the Oakland Press on February 15th. I have thought about you and your family daily (actually many times of day). I have read and reread your response saying, ” I don’t know what happens when people die, but I think it is not the end of us.” Mr. Fieger I truly hope you find peace, hope and joy through the death of your brother. As I thought about you the last 2 weeks I also prayed for you and your family. I pray you learn to fully accept the love and grace Christ has to offer you. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past the future is all that we have to look to.

    Thank you for reading my post and my husband and I will continue to keep you and your family in our prayers. Thank you!!

  28. InYourFaceNewYorker says:

    I don’t believe in an an afterlife. Never have. But as far as I’m concerned, all the more reason to make the most of this one, right? Whenever I have to contemplate death– my own or others’– I think of this beautiful quote from Richard Dawkins:

    “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

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