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Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Remembrance

This was my second oldest brother, David. We affectionately called him "Big Dave" because he also had a son with the same name.

It is so hard to lose a loved one. Life is never the same when the one you love so well is gone. I have often referred to death as a thief. It robs us of the most valuable of possessions when it takes from us the ones we love. I have lost many loved ones over the years and none have been so difficult as the loss of my two brothers.

Today, my brother, David, would have been 53. He passed away at the age of 39 due to liver failure. He was the second of my brothers to die. My father has often told me that, of all the five of us children, David and I were most alike in personality. We also looked more alike than the others. I miss him so very very much.

I was seven years old when Dave came along. He was the sweetest child. He laughed all the time. When he wasn't laughing, he was smiling. Everyone loved him from the moment they met him. Sometimes, I would just sit and look at him---he was just so sweet. As a toddler, he was the cutest little fella. He had little chubby legs and when he started walking, he would just giggle from the sheer joy of "running" away from us. He was also so loving. When he would curl up on my lap and lay his little head on my shoulder, I just melted. He could have asked me for the moon and I would have a found a way to get it for him. Such a sweetie!

As a teenager, David was all boy. I cannot count the number of times he rode his bike into the garage, breaking the window panel in the process. Daddy finally put a wood panel in, thinking he had solved the problem. One day we heard a crash on the driveway and, you guessed it, Dave had hit the brakes on his bike and skidded into the garage door. By the time we got to him, he was half in the garage and half out. I died laughing at the sight of him just hanging there. All we could hear from inside the garage was Dave's voice saying, "Could someone help me out of here?". We were all laughing so hard, it took a few minutes for us to help the poor fellow.

Dave also enjoyed football. He and his buddies played throughout junior high and high school. I am reminded of a time, before Dave got his driver's license, when he needed a ride home from football practice. He called home and asked me if I could pick him up. I said I would. When I arrived at the field, he had four buddies with him, all dressed in football uniforms---shoulder pads, knee pads, jerseys, helmets---the works. My car was a 1968 Ford Mustang, definitely not designed to hold five high school football players in full gear. Somehow we managed to squeeze them all in and deliver them safely home. As each guy got out of the car, you could feel it rise a little higher off the ground. Dave would always look at me with that beautiful smile of his and say, "Thanks, Sis.". That was always more than enough for me.

After high school graduation, David married his high school sweetheart, Vanessa. I played the music for their wedding. It was such a happy time. Vanessa is still a part of our lives and is loved so much by my family. She has remained so loyal and faithful to him even after all this time. Their love for each other has transcended even death. I know she is lonely without him, but she has told me that she could never love anyone as much as she loved my brother. She is quite a lady.

Of all the things David enjoyed in life, his two sons remained his greatest source of joy. David Lee and Derek Russell were the loves of his life. When his oldest, David Lee, was born, I was waiting at my parent's home for news of his birth. Dave couldn't tell me over the phone, though. He left the hospital, drove to my parent's house, and told me in person. With a grin on his face he said to me, "I've got me a big boy, Sis. He's beautiful.". He grabbed me and gave me one of his big bear hugs and we both laughed with sheer delight. Eleven years later, his second son, Derek, was born. The same joy overcame us as he shared the news with me. His sons became his heart and soul. He was an excellent father to both boys. They are strong, intelligent, loving men today because of the man they called "Dad.".

David's last days were spend in Ohio State University Hospital, waiting for a liver transplant. On the Sunday before he passed, I called him. I just had to hear his voice. He was weak in body but strong in spirit. We talked for about 15 minutes and then, sensing he was tired, I said my goodbye. I told him I loved him and he said, "I love you too, Sis.". Those were the last words he spoke to me. The next day David suffered full cardiac arrest and was placed on life support. Three days later, he took a severe turn for the worse with major body systems shutting down. We withdrew the life support and a minute later he was gone. As a nurse, I have watched many people die. David's death was the most peaceful I had ever witnessed. It seemed as if his spirit hovered over us, comforting us, sustaining us, and then he gently left us. I know the angels carried him away, taking him to a far better place where sickness and death do not enter.

Oh, how I miss him. How I wish I could hear his deep voice call my name and what I would give to hear his laughter one more time. What I would give to hear him say, "Hey, Sis," one more time. Oh, but I would never call him back from the beauty of his resting place. His body was worn and weary, he was tired, he was ready to go. What a wonderful man he was. I loved him so fiercely and I miss him so deeply.

I close with the words of Peter Marshall, former Chaplain to the United States Senate. I have quoted them many times and I always find peace in the beauty of the phrase, "Those we love are with the Lord and the Lord has promised to be with us. If they are with Him, and He is with us, then they cannot be far away.". Maybe that's why, after almost 14 years, I can feel David's presence from time to time. It's almost as if I can hear him say, "Don't worry, Sis. I'll wait for you. Remember, this is only a temporary separation, after all.".

In Grace,