Friday, April 29, 2011

The Way it Is

Dr. Craig Clanton
Today I was told my younger brother is losing his battle with cancer.   
He is dying.
It’s not supposed to happen this way.

My brother was always the most-athletic, most-fit, most-active of our four siblings. 

I was the oldest, then Craig, followed by our sister, and our youngest brother, an arrival when I was 12-years old.  

Dr. Craig Clanton
with sister-in-law
Darlene Clanton
Craig was the cheerleader, the hiker, the outdoorsman, the Boy Scout. Craig was among the first graduating class of the Texas A&M Medical School’s Country Doctor Program, and practiced medicine for the Scott & White Hospital System in Temple, Texas. 

Doctors aren’t supposed to get sick, right?
Certainly, not catch cancer.
It’s not supposed to happen that way.

Earlier in the day, the entire family was summoned to a cluttered conference room sandwiched between corridors on the Oncology floor of the hospital. Once assembled, Craig’s team of Oncology physicians stood before us and said there was nothing they could do for him but to make him as comfortable as possible until he passed.

Three physicians, collaborating with other cancer care specialists from around the country, representing hundreds of man-years of experience…coming up empty.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…etc.
It’s not supposed to happen this way.

Tonight I am sitting alone in the hospital room at the end of the hallway, with my dying brother lying in his bed. There are no beeps of telemetry monitoring his every twitch, no whooshing of oxygen feeding his nostrils; he’s tethered to an IV-drip and a catheter, sucking the last moments of life through a gaping mouth. 
The room is peacefully silent, save for his breathing.
It’s not supposed to happen this way.

I always assumed Craig would be the one to officiate at the passing of our parents. In his clinical way he would calm us by telling us clearly and frankly their time was over. No guesswork, no minced words, because that’s the kind of guy he is.

I imagined I, as the oldest, would be the first of our generation to pass on next, and figured Craig would be there, too, holding my wife’s hand, and comforting her as I slipped over (I was the one who contracted cancer first, and beat it.) Telling everyone what to expect and when…and if you wanted to listen, why and how.
That’s the way he is.

Dr. Craig and Carol Clanton
(Special thanks to Justin and Mollie Beam for photo)
My parents are heartbroken; no parent should have to bury a child, especially after 53-years of productive life. My sister-in-law is distraught with the awesome responsibility of dealing with her pending widowhood; my nieces and nephews are coping as best they can, realizing their Dad’s not going to be there for all the usual milestones in their lives: births of grandchildren, two more weddings to produce, and a college graduation to attend.
He won’t be here for those.
It’s not supposed to happen this way.

Our family is grounded in faith and a hope that we will one day all be reunited again in bodies that will not wrinkle or fade, muscles that will not tire, hairlines that will not recede, and which cancer cannot invade. Our grandparents have been waiting patiently for us, and a few cousins who crossed over before us, too.

Dr. Craig Clanton with Grandson, Keller.
(Special thanks to Justin and Mollie Beam for photo)
As Craig makes his own transition, I am comforted to know that he will be welcomed by loved ones, and while he is missed by loved ones here, we have additional incentive to meet up with him in Heaven.
That’s how it’s supposed to happen.


Logan Dawson said...

Brent, My heart is just breaking for all of you!! Words can never express how sad I am for all of you!! You and Darlene mean so much to me and my family!! Words can't help but we love y'all and we'll be praying!!!

Love you!!

farbulous said...

Brent, My heart goes out to the entire Clanton family. I am so sorry to hear of your brother's prognosis. May you all find strength through your deep faith.

Susan Farb Morris

Bill said...

Writing about things that affect us strongly is a great cathartic. It has helped me a number of times to write poetry (no claim to good poetry). I know this is just one of the things that can help you get through this. I am glad to see you do it, and to do it well.

Anonymous said...

Brent & Family,

I am not eloquent of speech, nor do I have the words to express the feelings of my heart at this challenging time. I have always admired your ability to use the English language to convey a thought. Not to mention having that wonderful voice with which to express those thoughts. But like you, I do have a faith in God and His promises that you, your family, all of us can lean upon at times like these. No,this isn't how it's "supposed to happen", but what can we do when it happens?

At times like these it's good to go back to scripture. That's what Jesus did when He faced challenging times. A couple of passages come to mind:

Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Jer 10:23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

I don't know why bad things happen to good people. I don't know why men like Craig who are faithful to God, their families, an asset to their community, suffer while others who turn their back on God seem to flourish.

But I do know God is Just, He is right, and always does the right thing. With the human eye I cannot always see that. But through the eye of faith, I know it.

I know Craig, like all of us will leave a legacy. That legacy began in your faithful parents, was passed down to Craig and each of you, and will live on long after any of us are gone.

This life is like a vapor that appeareth for just a little while then vanishes away. Life at it's longest is short. Eternity is forever.

David said at the loss of his child, "he can't come to me, but we can go to him". That is our hope.

So at this difficult time, lean upon the Lord,not our own understanding. Our prayers are with you and the whole family.


Caren Bryan said...

FORTUNATELY he and his family know The Great Physician, and He has never once been caught offguard by all of this. Your faith will get you through this difficult time. My heart breaks for all of you but I know God is faithful to keep His promises and He will be there for you for strength, comfort and He will heal your hearts. I love you and your family more than you will ever know. You have always been there for me....please know I will be there for you.

Mike & Oralia Ackley said...


We are so sorry. Your brother Craig is one class act. We've never met a nicer person. Just a class act. Our prayers are with the entire Clanton family. We love you all.

Dottie Bonura said...

Brent and the Clanton Family--words can not express how sad I was to read and hear of this travesty. God will hold you all up and take good care of Craig as he passes. Love and prayers to you all.
Dottie Bonura

Anonymous said...

Brent, This is absolutely heart wrenching to hear! I know your family will get through this because of the faith you have and the love you have for each other. Stay strong and I will keep you and your family in my prayers!! Love to the entire Clanton family.

Amar said...

Brent, my thoughts and sincerest wishes goes to you and your family during this time.

Jay said...

My prayers to god for you and your family, "may the white light of gods peace and love embrace you all"

My deepest condolences and a hearty Texas hug.

Jay Branson

Wright said...

Brent, my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family at this difficult time. Your faith and love for your brother are a blessing that will help you through this terrible time. Let me know if I can help in any way.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Clanton,

So sorry to hear this heartbreaking news! Praying for you and the rest of the family in this time of heartbreak!

Jimmy K.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about Craig. Your blog is so moving and brings back many memories I have of my Father's passing in the same way several years ago. My prayers are with all of Craig's family.

Anonymous said...

Brent, I'm so sorry to hear about your brother. Two things really suck: 1. illness that occurs in our prime that remind us to appreciate life. 2. losses we endure simply because we bizzarly outlive those we shouldn't.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. God Bless all of you!
Ed Kampf

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said, Brent. Know that David and I are constantly in prayer for all of you; for all of us. Craig is in our Father's arms now and we rejoice in that knowledge.
Much love from Leah & David

RJC said...

Dear Brent,

As your parents' next door neighbors and friends of the Montgomery's we have prayed regularly for Craig for months now. We grieve with you for your loss and rejoice with Craig in his heavenly homecoming. Please know that we are here for you and would welcome your email at if we can ever be of service to you or your parents. God bless you as you work through the difficult process of healing. - Isaiah 41:10

Ron & Anne Clemons

Anonymous said...

Your post is beautiful, and mu heart aches for your loss. Sending love and prayers for comfort to you and your family.

Sarah (Sanford) Lyon

Anonymous said...

Dear Brent,
My prayers are with you and your entire family. Craig was a great guy and will be missed by many.

Betsy Corey Till
SWHS '76
Texas A&M '80

Tamron Davis said...

My husband and I were saddened to hear about Dr. Clanton. My husband, Brian, was a patient of his for many years, and credits Dr. Clanton for saving his life, during a strange illness in his youth. He delivered our second son on July 9, 2000. I asked him once on a visit if there was any way to make sure that my next child was a girl, that I had heard some old wives tales and wondered if any of them really worked. I will never forget Craig's response...he said to play soft music and light some candles to set a relaxing and romantic mood, and have Brian draw me a warm bath...(and I'm thinking, WOW, the atmosphere can determine the sex of our baby? Then he completes his directive with an absolute straight face)...then tell Brian to call me and I'll come over and take care of the rest! It was hilarous! He then went on to explain to me that the sex of the baby is determined by the dad, and that Brian makes "man cubs", while he consistantly makes girls. Not the miracle answer I was looking for, but it made for a great memory, and I thought you might enjoy it. I'm thankful to have known him. It is no secret that he was a good man, and an outstanding Physician, but I hope he really knew just how many lives he impacted, and how much he will be missed.

Ricky Holcomb & family said...

You all are in our thoughts & prayers. May Dr. Clanton rest in peace..... our friendship started out helping him pen & load cows quite a few years back, and being my doctor throughout alot afterwards... to me calling him at home for health advice for my kids.... I say... " Thank You Dr. Clanton... Job well done!" Sometimes we don't understand, but got to keep the faith... God bless all the Clanton family.

Chris G. - Fullerton, CA said...

Brent, Well said & what a sad day for all who knew Craig - even as far back as Boy Scouts or Spring Oaks. I am sorry for the families and all who were affected. My prayers to all of you.