Lo Detrich: A wonderful life
BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, August 19, 2012
8/19/12 at 8:06 AM
At 6:15 Wednesday evening Terry and Don Detrich were standing at the entrance to Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Tulsa greeting, usually hugging, almost every person who walked through the doors. And they most often were smiling. It was exactly what their daughter, Lo, would do and exactly what she would want.
The Saturday before, Aug. 11, Lo had died. She was only 28.
After a lifetime of struggle with cystic fibrosis, Lo decided to accept hospice care and forego her lifelong routine of doctors, hospitals and medications. It did, of course, take courage to make such a decision. But anyone who knew Lo would expect no less.
Lo was diagnosed with CF when she was 3 months old. The average life span for a person with CF is about 33 years. Since the diagnosis, her life was filled with daily breathing treatments, medications and two double-lung transplants, all of which she endured with little complaint.
I met Lo eight years ago when she and her mother came to the Tulsa World Editorial Board to talk about CF and an upcoming fundraiser. It wasn't until near the end of the meeting that Lo explained that she had CF. It seemed impossible.
From then, I followed Lo and reported on her journey. Through it all, she and her family remained open, discussing her problems frankly, and to my early surprise, Lo was quite funny. That humorous streak, which is a family trait, would surface again and again.
Lo also had a philosophical side. In November of 2007, while she was awaiting a lung transplant, I asked her if she ever felt sorry for herself. She said, "If we felt sorry for ourselves, we would be dead by now. I'm just trying to take each moment with me."
By accounts of friends and family, she certainly did that.
By the time Lo's memorial began Wednesday, the huge cathedral was overflowing. Few of us will ever touch that many people in a lifetime. And, in Lo's case, a short time. I suspect that each one there had been moved by Lo in some way, including me.
My regret is that I never got the chance to thank her for her help. A few years back when I was diagnosed with colon cancer, I wound up facing six months of chemotherapy. Yes, I felt sorry for myself. But somewhere in my selfish haze, I thought of Lo and realized that I didn't have it so bad. I got six months of chemo with a good chance of survival while Lo had battled her entire life. It put life into perspective.
Throughout her ordeal, Lo continued not only her personal fight but the fight against CF. Later she became a strong advocate for organ donation.
She had been chairperson and top fundraiser for the annual Great Strides program, the CF walkathon fundraiser.
At age 13, in 1997, she was given the Henry Zarrow Award, the highest honor an individual can get, for her work with the Sooner Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Two years later she was named a Prudential Spirit of Community Award winner for Oklahoma. Her list of awards and accomplishments is too long to list here, but in 2002 she was given the Barron Prize Scholarship Award, which goes to 10 teenagers in the United States who have demonstrated their commitment to community service.
But this is not about awards. This is about Lo and Terry and Don and her sister, Jane, who is CF-free, and all the family and friends that she touched. It is about a life fiercely fought and one that ended with dignity.
That same November of 2007 Lo said that during one of her low points while she was heavily sedated, she thought that it was all coming to an end. She said she was sad because it had all been so great.
The next time you start to feel sorry for yourself, remember that.
Following the transplant, she said, "I'm so happy, so blessed. I want to give back to the world, make a difference and leave a positive mark." She certainly accomplished that.
In a couple of my columns about Lo, I referred to her as fighter and one that I would never bet against. Now, I think of the Paul Simon song, "The Boxer" and these poignant lyrics:
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains
On the back of the program at Lo's memorial were these words from her family: "Lo loves and will miss each and every one of you!"
Everyone who knew Lo has no doubt.
The world is a lot poorer without Lo. It is, however, a lot richer for having her at all.
In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" George Bailey, who has fallen on tough times, tells second-class guardian angel Clarence that he wishes he had never been born. His wish is granted. When George begins to realize the consequences of his wish, Clarence issues this bit of philosophy: "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
The hole left now is as big as the cathedral at Holy Family in downtown Tulsa. That hole, however, was filled Wednesday with the love of those who were blessed enough to have known Lo. And they were all glad that she was around - if only for a little while.
Lo, and behold her wonderful life.
Original Print Headline: A wonderful life
Mike Jones, 918-581-8332
TERRY and DON DETRICH/Courtesy