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David

I haven’t been very diligent about keeping up with the blog since the beginning of the New Year and I apologize to my regular readers for that. I didn’t know specifically why I was less motivated than I usually am but I have been less motivated – or maybe just discouraged.

Certainly starting the year off with three deaths in the family is a fairly large emotional hurdle to get over and I was particularly hard-hit by the death of my cousin David who was only eight months older than I am. I’ve known David my entire life and if we didn’t see each other regularly, when we did it always seemed like we had just seen each other the day before as well.

We got into so many scrapes together like the time when we were kids and decided to play store by selling all of his toys from a card table we set up in his parent’s driveway. It was a real bonanza for the other kids in the neighbourhood because David had some really nice stuff and we were selling it for pennies. If I remember correctly, we made about $2.50 which we thought would impress my mild-spoken Aunt Fran (David’s mom) but she was anything but and made us traipse around the neighbourhood to ‘buy-back’ everything we had sold.

Aunt Fran was annoyed although unlike my mom who was tiny but could be like a hurricane when she was annoyed, furious for Aunt Fran never rose above a whisper and bit of teeth clucking.

Later, when we were teenagers and David came to visit my family while we were living in Germany, we went out with the gang for our usual night of carousing and good German beer. We ended up being chased all over town by the Polizei (the German police) because somebody had been seen breaking into a gum ball machine and because whoever it was wore light coloured jeans, the Polizei assumed it was a Canadian teenager.

They probably assumed correctly but it wasn’t us and tore through parts of the old city while the police in their Porche-driven Volkswagon Beetles scoured the town for us. We split up into smaller groups and David went with one group while I went in a different direction with another. At one point, I remember hanging by my fingers from the top of a 12’ high wall that ringed the old part of the city. The wall was quite wide and the police raced back and forth along the pathway on top of the wall in their VWs looking for us.

They didn’t catch me or the guys I was with but they did catch David and his group. Later that evening, the police turned them over to the Canadian military police who in turn called my father who was Captain in the Provost Corps to come and pick up David. As I recall, neither my mother or father said to much to us about that night – just one more example of the effect David had on those around him.

So many memories of a warm, gentle person.

I remember when my sister got married at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa; the Dean advised the assembled that we were not to take pictures during the ceremony but he would gladly stage the ceremony after the wedding Eucharist. That was good enough for pretty much all of us except David.

I was sitting in the front pew with other members of the wedding party. My sister and future brother-in-law were standing at the bottom of the chancel steps facing the altar and the Dean was standing on the bottom step smiling benevolently at them. Behind them, lying on his belly, his head poking around the bottom of the front choir pew was David, happily snapping pictures. The Dean never did figure out why so many in the congregation were chuckling but he did comment at the reception that it was certainly one of the happiest wedding at which he had officiated.

It wasn’t a lack of respect for the church that caused David to flout the rules; it was a good-natured irreverence for the rules. He was, in fact, deeply spiritual and when he died, Davod was an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church; a man who followed his faith with good humour and deep devotion.

As he fought the final stages of cancer, he wrote that his situation was a win/win for him. Either he would defeat the cancer that was killing him or he would move on to his belief in life after death. He considered both to be equally rewarding and a blessing.

He was a talented illustrator, a professor of architecture who helped launch a thousand careers and the father of seven children. His seventh child was born when David was in his early 50s and I told him that he and his wife Elaine should consider getting cable. He just smiled and chuckled. He was a happy, gentle spirit who loved his family and his life to the day he died in January.

I exchanged emails with a mutual cousin and he admitted to feeling the same as I was feeling. We were both feeling overwhelmed by David’s death in a way that so many other deaths in the family hadn’t touched us.

While we always looked forward to seeing him, I don’t think we realized until he died just how much we loved David and even if we didn’t see him frequently, we always knew he was there – just like he was supposed to be.

It was his wife Elaine who said it best when I hugged her at the funeral.

“It’s left a big hole in our lives.”

She was right. David’s death has left a big hole in the lives of all who knew him and the church was strictly standing room only at his funeral and I have been struggling to deal with that hole these past few weeks.

Still, as difficult as it has been to deal with his death, it is impossible not to be thankful for his life because he gave us one more thing. By bringing us together for his funeral, he reminded us of how we have drifted apart as a family and so, I have organized a family reunion to take place this summer.

I sent the announcement out last week and family members have already started sending in their confirmation to attend.

It will serve to reconnect and renew us as a family but it will also serve to remind us from where we came and those we loved who are no longer with us. I think it is also a reminder that nothing is more important than family and that as long as our families remain strong, united and remember us – we never truly die.

I sometimes think it would serve us all a little better to remember that the people of a nation are like a family and that while we may disagree on many things, we are stronger when we respect and support each other than when we allow ourselves to be divided and polarized.

David lives on in the memories of many in my family and in the stories we tell about him. He lives on in the lives of his children and the lives of all the students and colleagues he touched over the years.

He lives on in my memories of my times with him and while his death has been a bit overwhelming for me, I have come to realize that I am grateful that his life touched mine.

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • Barb Gulka

    “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
    From an Irish headstone” ………… because our loved ones have been here, with us, they will always remain here with us…….(.memories).. will be vibrant and alive with those that remain behind…………

    • MaggiesBear

      very true. It is why I’m organizing a family reunion. It’s time to reconnect, to remember and to reaffirm who we are as a family. There is strength in that connection and healing in remembering those we lost by sharing our stories and memories.

      • Barb Gulka

        good for you!…I did the same in 2009 and many had never met each other….it was great, we remembered those that had gone before us with stories and photo’s….I believe it is a duty to bring
        the ‘tribe’ (s) together whenever we can to feed the souls of those left temporarily behind…..

  • bobmontgomery

    Peace be with you, Canadian friend. Don’t stop by that often but did today and just wanted to say that the gratitude thing you mentioned at the end is a really big deal, and could be expressed a lot more, in a lot of scenarios and situations. You are fortunate to have that. It will comfort you.

    • MaggiesBear

      Thank you for your comment. I didn’t fully realize how much David’s death had affected me. I’ve been to so many family funerals, including those of my parents that you begin to believe that you have death in its proper perspective. But I wrote this piece precisely because I was denying to myself just how overwhelming it can be to lose someone. In writing it, I found that much of the sadness dissipated as I remembered the times David and I spent together.

  • Pingback: David | Grumpy Opinions()

  • matthew brandley

    When I worked in nursing and ems I was dealing with death on a regular basis almost every day. I have seen people greet it with open arms and those with anger. Those with strong faith seem to be the ones at peace. I know I have nothing to be afraid of when my time is over and actualy look foward to it. I live each day to the fullest and love and laugh as much as I can every day. You never know when it will be your last.

    • MaggiesBear

      That’s a good attitude. I’m not afraid of dying either, just concerned that I’ll go before I have seen and done everything I still want to do.