a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Respects to David

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Respects to David

SUMMARY: He was an amazing man.
This afternoon I'll be attending A Celebration of David's Life. For the last several weeks, I've had a chance to celebrate it a little each day as I've collected information for, and created, a handout for today's event.

One can say only that David was a remarkable man. ...No, that's not quite right. As people have sent me their stories about David, I've seen the same words time and again: Joy, happy, intelligent, smart, funny, generous, enjoyed life, liked trying new things, sharing, positive attitude, never gave up, as well as remarkable. He had a successful technical and management career, a list of publications longer than your kitchen table, a book of poetry, and memberships (often in leadership positions) in dozens of organizations, many of them involved in community service.

They are expecting well over 200 people at the Celebration, from all over the country and from a variety of activities and social groups. I've often thought how nice it would be to be able to do something like this when someone was still alive, so that they could see how many lives they've touched, and how. Unfortunately, David can't be there, because brain cancer saw to that last year. Isn't it an interesting thing, in our culture? If I were to say, hey, let's all get together for this once-ever Celebration of Fred Smith, and Fred is looking forward to seeing all of you, I can guarantee that the turnout would be half of what one would get if Fred predeceased the celebration.

So I can only hope that somehow, some way, David's spirit can feel what we feel for him and rest in deeper peace for it.

David's wife, Sue, has been a friend for 20 years. The two of them are the only friends who've ever purchased season subscriptions to San Jose Repertory Theater with me. This was David's second marriage (first ended due to mental illness of the other party), and he brought his love and his two children into Sue's life barely more than 10 years ago.

Sue said, "David participated in an online game about caring called Ruby's Bequest, which was created by a friend of ours (Ken Eklund). The game took place in a fictional town called Deepwell. This is what David wrote to the other players at the end of the game:"

Being Meaningful

Reading the progress of Ruby's Bequest over the years has caused me to seriously reflect on what is missing from my life. (I have brain cancer, am immune impaired, and am totally disabled.) It wasn't losing my job and the reduction in standard of living. It wasn't being forced into retirement 10 years before I was ready. It isn't being stuck within these four walls most days, the reduced ability to think and speak, or the prospect of an eminent death. What drives me to the brink of depression some days is: I wasn't ready to stop being "meaningful". I don't mean being famous. I mean things like volunteer teaching in schools, helping kids with science projects, volunteering at food distribution sites, socializing shelter animals, giving blood, protesting in the streets -- nothing that you will ever get recognition for. In Deepwellian Speak, I suppose I should say: I was never ready to not be able to actively "care".

If you'd like to read a bit more about David's life and how he affected others, here's the front cover of the handout; you can download and read the whole PDF here.


  1. Oh Ellen. This is beautiful. I will have to read it tomorrow night...can't go to work this morning crying. Why is it that those people who are so fully engaged in life, with so much still to give, move on so early in their lives? You are right. We should be celebrating these people far earlier in their lives.

    On the other hand, how lucky are some people to have the Davids in the world in their lives at all?

  2. You're so right. I said at the ceremony that Sue and David were so lucky to have found each other. Only wish it had been longer. As, I'm sure, Sue wishes with all her heart. She said, back after the cancer was discovered, "I just want my happy little life back." But it's clear that she and everyone else who knew him because of her were enriched by knowing him.