It's been four months that I have wanted to write this blog for him. He was an avid reader of my blog and used to encourage me to write more. I have felt this desire to put into words what a remarkable man he was, and how much he meant to me. That pressure always felt too heavy. It still does. How can I possibly write something beautiful and meaningful enough about this giant of a man that we lost? I'll never be able to do him justice. I do want to try. I don't know what I am going to say but tonight felt right. I'm sitting in my lovely home, fire lit, watching the snow falling lightly outside. It's time.
Simply put, David is the best man I have ever known. I don't mean this to somehow belittle the other incredible men in my life (you know who you are), but David was different. He was extraordinary.
His cancer crept upon our family. I remember the night Seth took him to the ER to help with an abscess. They did a CT scan on his abdomen. Seth sent me a text and said, "I've never seen a CT scan look like that." When I asked if we should be worried he said, "Probably not." Tests were done, specialists were seen. Cancer. Colon cancer. Stage 4. 6-12 months to live.
No, not David.
We used to joke that of all of our parents, David would live to be over 100. Why wouldn't he? He was healthy. He exercised nearly daily. he ate an extremely healthy diet, he participated in the senior games, he meditated daily (even while on vacation).
He stayed busy with gardening, volunteering, he had a large and interesting group of friends. Really, how could this beacon of health be the one to get sick?
Death doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it takes and it takes and it takes, and we keep living anyway....
He deteriorated really quickly. I had the misconception that the silver lining with cancer was that you had a chance to live. To do those things you always wanted to do. To be with your loved ones. Sadly, that wasn't the case for him. Within three months he was unrecognizable...withdrawn...depressed....and it was absolutely heartbreaking to witness.
I don't want to remember David this way. But that was the harsh reality of him last month or so. I choose to shift my memories to ones of family vacations together. Hiking, playing in the waves, biking through Zion...
I was lucky enough to have David active in my donor club at KUER. He was excited to be involved in as many activities as possible. We went to SLAC plays together, he joined me at the symphony, he met Ira Glass and even came to a cooking class or two.
People always seem so shocked when I tell them about Seth's parents. "Wait, so he and his wife were divorced? But they still lived together? Wait and then he had a girlfriend that lived there too? What? How did that work?"
It worked because above all, he loved. He never stopped caring for Patricia (his ex-wife). They remained dear friends even 20 years after their divorce. So why not buy a big home and have her live there too? They still shared a life, in a community. Roommates came and went, and then Shelley entered the home. And she and David fell in love. The other roommates moved out and the three of them stayed together in the house. Patricia has a room and a kitchen in the basement, and David and Shelley lived upstairs. But they really all had a strong relationship together. They had daily "expression sessions". They cooked together, did yard-work together, had friends over for dinner and movie nights. It just worked for them and it was really extraordinary to witness. Family get-togethers always were at their home. Everyone got along. David would often ask for extra tickets to KUER events so that Patricia could come along with them as well. Family vacations, we all went together.
It's tradition for the family to go together on a vacation each summer. All of us and David was always kind enough to pay. Sun Valley, Zion National Park, McCall, Palm Springs, etc. Part of the family vacation was to have at least one expression session. Basically the chance for the adults to get together one evening, and each of us had 5-7 minutes to just talk. To cry about what is difficult in our lives, to talk about our fears, but mainly to express gratitude to one-another. On one particular expression session I remember David saying how he felt he wasn't a good example to his grandsons, because he was living with his girlfriend, not married to her. And we all laughed. How could he possibly not have been a good example? He was the BEST example of what it meant to be loving and kind to each other. He took care of all of us. He was always the one we would go to when we needed advice. He always helped us when we needed it. He would come and help us paint the house, he helped assemble furniture, do yard-work, whatever we needed. He was always there, and always willing to help.
He was a wonderful grandpa, Papa David. He loved taking the grandkids swimming and camping. He built a great playhouse in his backyard for the kids. He loved each one so much.
I'm so grateful that Millie had special time with him. For two years in a row, we went with David to Newport Beach. The first year it was just the four of us. We played at the beach, we cooked together, played games, watched movies, and just played. And it was so special. I am so glad we had those weekends with him, that Millie had those weekends with him.
Although Matilda won't remember him much, I'm so glad she had a year or so with him. The first time we went to his house after he had died, Matilda ran into his bedroom. When I found her she was pointing up at his bed saying, "Papa David!"
One of the things I miss the most about David, was hearing his chuckle. He was the quiet one in the family. He always sat in the background and observed his loud family. But he got a kick out of his grandchildren. Lately I have been scouring videos from family dinners, birthday parties, just hoping to hear that laugh. Oh how I miss that laugh.
The last week of his life was one of the most special and bitter-sweet times in my life. We really held vigil around his bed. Each night, we would gather, order take-out, and hang out in his room. We all held his hands, rubbed his feet and his legs. We sang Billy Joel songs to him. We talked and cried, and cried and talked. We all had the chance to say our goodbyes to him. I kissed and hugged him and asked him to watch over us when he was gone. He replied, "I will. Don't worry, I'm an easy grader."
Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent. It still feels unreal that he isn't here. I keep thinking he is just off on a long vacation and that soon he'll be back. But he's gone. And the world just feels darker without him here. But how lucky we all were to have had him in our lives.
David, I love you. I am grateful every day that I had the chance to spend 10 years of my life knowing you. I miss you. I miss having you over to watch football. I miss you playing with the girls (hide-and-seek for hours with Millie). I miss talking to you about religions, politics and church history. I miss your constant and steady presence in our lives. I'll miss discussing the latest RadioWest with you. I miss your voice and your laugh. I miss your guidance.
Thank you for accepting me into your family. Thank you for letting me be a part of this wonderful world you created and cultivated.
Thank you for giving Seth some of his greatest traits. He is kind, he is generous and loving. He's a great father because of you.
Thank you for teaching me that love and being true to you are some of life's most valuable lessons. Your legacy will live on through each of us. As we seek to live lives worthy of you.
We love you.