September 21, 2014
Dave’s legacy has been difficult for me to process. To quote someone who was close to him, “Dave left a train wreak in his path. Not only emotionally for his boys but, for anyone else in his path. Dave was a man of wonderful words and very few actions. His smile was contagious and his charm was over the top. The real man however sadly was never there.”
I can’t argue with the statement. Dave had many flaws… But I believe within us all is a perfect spirit chained down by ego, fear, and earthly desires. I believe that consciousness expands a “bazillion” times at the moment of death. Freed from his chains, I believe my flawed friend is now perfect.
I wasn’t surprised when I received a text message on Monday, September 15th at 11:19am EST that Dave had passed away. Rather than mourn, I spent this past week reflecting on my experience with Dave. I continued writing a letter I sent to him back in July expressing my feelings about his alcoholism, but mostly to honor our friendship. “Beautiful. Thanks Brother”, he replied.
I’ve kept the letter addressed to Dave as if he were still with us, because I believe his spirit is now part of the eternal, and he is closer to us than our own breath.
July 20, 2014
Incredible that we’ve known each other since we were 12 years old.
I remember when we first met. Seems like yesterday. I was fresh from Ohio and had just moved into the Bay Crest apartments in Point Loma with my mother, sister and brother. I was outside tossing a Frisbee in the air to myself like a boomerang when I heard a voice holler, “Hey Freddy!” When I looked around, the first person I saw was Fred, suited up in his white football uniform. Then I saw you on your funky old bicycle, your long, sun-bleached hair blowing in the breeze. You were wearing a black trench coat over white tennis shorts without a shirt. I never saw a dude dressed like that before!
I could feel your spirit from a hundred feet away. You were so alive, independent, rebellious and crazy… you were “Sicky”, and I was in Awe of you in an instant.
You and Fred stood in the middle of the street, quietly talking and occasionally looking at me—the new guy on the block. Then came a bellow from high above; Jeff was scampering down the steep cliff behind the apartment complex.
Now there were three locals sneaking suspicious looks at me. I’m not exactly sure why we started talking, but I’m sure it began with a smart-ass comment from you. I guess I came back with a smart-ass reply. Whatever I said was enough to satisfy you. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
There have been times over the past 40+ years when we have lost touch. Being out of touch with you now hurts the most. But when I close my eyes, I can see your sly grin and feel your magnetic personality.
We have so much in common, Dave. Like you, I came from a broken home. But unlike you, my mother was always in my life. Your father loved you, but you missed out on the nurturing, unconditional love only a mother can give. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure you must have suffered as a result of not having a mommy hold you in her arms, or scratch your back, or look up into you eyes as a young man, her eyes filled with admiration, pride and love. You must have longed for a mother’s love. Despite that void, and the many other challenges in your life, you became very successful. You accomplished so much in your life!
We tried our best to be there for our families. We may not be perfect, hell, we’ve got lots of flaws, but we’ve got big hearts filled with big love. We can only ask our families for understanding, and ask them to see through our flaws and give thanks for the goodness we gave them. Bless your boys, Dave. Its unfortunate that they had to witness your intense struggles this past year. Hopefully they can rise above an attitude of “blame and shame” and honor you as the big, beautiful man you truly are… or were. I prayed for you to get better, Dave. I was hoping you would recover, so you could get on your knees and humbly ask for their forgiveness. I was hoping you would get spiritually strong, renew the love with your boys and create healthy memories for them to hang on to.
I wish you could have found Jesus or Buddha or some AA person to sponsor you and inspire you to change your behavior. I know some close friends reached out to you many times to convince you to quit drinking. Some say you were too proud or arrogant to accept help. I think it was that independent, rebellious spirit of yours. I can relate. I have that spirit too.
We started drinking beer when we were 15 years-old. I remember one time when the two of us were dressed in Hawaiian shirts, looking in the mirror, fired-up, ready to meet-up with the guys and go to a party in OB. We hung outside Liticker’s Liquor store until we could convince an adult to buy us a six-pack. We sucked down those Micky Big Mouths, copped a buzz and strutted our stuff though the party, checking out all the pretty girls. Seemingly innocent behavior for two SD dudes, but it was the beginning of “behavioral problems” for the both of us, and the beginning of the end for you.
As we got older, drinking beer escalated to the hard stuff. Our careers compounded our problems. I became an actor, always waiting for the phone to ring with news of a big break. Drinking took the edge off my anxiety. Or, while working in my painting studio, I would dull the sharp edge of responsibility with a few shots. With my inhibitions released, I pursued the elusive “masterpiece”. My problem became more entrenched with each stroke of the brush.
You became a successful businessman. Smooshing clients became your forte. If there was a business seminar called “Become The World’s Greatest Smoosher”, you would be the keynote speaker. You are the greatest smoosher because you love people. But the smooshing became an occupational hazard. Your problem became more entrenched each time you entertained a client.
Many years ago I admitted I had a problem. Every time I lifted a drink, I knew it was like a loaded gun. I like guns, they’re fun to shoot. But they’re killers. Fortunately, I was able to quit the heavy drinking. You weren’t as fortunate.
You once confided in me that you had the tears of a clown. Now I’m the one crying. Why couldn’t you stop drinking, Dave?
Some people are angry that you drank yourself to death. I am too, because I’ll never get to give you a hug again. But mostly I’m sad because your sons will never really get to know you. I didn’t get to really know my dad until I was in my late twenties. All sons deserve to a chance to get to know their fathers as ordinary men.
You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last to die from alcoholism. Despite your sad ending, I am still in Awe of you, Dave. I still have “a feeling of reverential respect” for you. To me you will always be the kid that shredded Luscombs on double overhead waves. You will always be the teenager who loved doing tricks like methane blasts and “popping balls”, making me laugh so damn hard I pissed my pants. You will always be the young man who overcame the odds and became a successful HVAC engineer. You will always be the father that built a fabulous home and who helped raised three wonderful boys. To me you will always be the Master and Commander of the Aurora, sailing the open seas.
It’s easy for me to praise you, Dave. I didn’t have to put up with all your flaws and foibles over the years. I didn’t have to discover you passed-out with empty booze bottles littered at your feet. I didn’t have to take you to the emergency room. I didn’t have to stand over your limp, frail body lying in a hospital bed.
Forgiveness is a virtue that frees us from resentment. I hope that all the people who suffered as a result of your drinking can find it their heart to forgive you, Dave. I hope they can overlook your mistakes, and be willing to move forward, holding tight to their positive memories of you.
Someone asked me what I learned from you. After thinking about it, I learned I can use virtues to overcome my addictions. I can practice Caring for my body and be mindful of what I eat and drink. I can have the Confidence to accept myself as I am, demons and all. And most importantly, I can practice Courage to face life with sobriety.
Many years ago I read a story about life after death. Life on earth is like living in a wooden house without windows. Some people, curious about their existence, move through the darkness to the walls and discover a glimmer of light shining in between the wooden slates that make up the walls of the house. But for most of us, our entire life is lived in total darkness and ignorance of what is outside of our perception. Then, as death approaches, a blindfold is put over our eyes and we are guided out of the house. Up and up and up we ascend until we are standing on a mountaintop. When death comes and our spirit is freed from the body, the blindfold is suddenly removed. In an instant we see majestic mountains rising in the horizon, blue sky and billowing clouds. With our consciousness expanded beyond comprehension, we suddenly see the beauty of everything. We even see the beauty of the windowless wooden house far down below in the valley, where we lived a life of darkness and ignorance.
I know you see the beauty of everything, Dave. And I know that you know I see the beauty of you.
With wonder, admiration, respect, and eternal love,