It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. There were more trips for my mother and father to take together. There were more summer days we were supposed to spend together as a family at the beach. We had more baseball games to see together. More races at which my Dad could cheer for me as I ran. Another grandchild to meet face to face.
Probably the most difficult part of all of this is explaining it to David’s grandchildren, particularly his beloved granddaughter Carly, who still asks when we can see Bapa. Julie and I, as best we can, are trying to explain what death means, what it means to never be able to see someone again, but that Bapa will always be in our hearts, and that we are here today to celebrate him, to tell stories, and to remember him forever and ever.
As this community has come together to embrace our family, the gifts of stories are wonderful presents we open every day. Remarking on David’s final hours before he slipped away to eternal peace, the nursing staff at Johns Hopkins remarked that it was clear David had a runner’s heart.
I can verify that his strength and endurance were with him to the end. When the doctors at his bedside would ask David to assess his pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I knew the answers he gave vastly underreported what he must have been feeling.
A friend of mine came forward with a story of David’s strong heart from more than 30 years ago. Reaching the top of a climb while backpacking the Lenhok’sin Trail at Goshen Scout Camp, our troop’s collection of early teen boys were gasping for air, with hearts racing, and our shoulders burning from the weight of our packs.
There we found my father, in the humid appalachian summer air of southwestern Virginia, with two fingers placed on his wrist, checking his pulse rate against his watch. “Boys, this is the effort of a marathon runner,” he said in a humorous tone, both taunting us in our exhaustion but also congratulating us on our effort. It was a rich lesson that day- the value of pausing to toast each accomplishment, but to not take yourself too seriously because there was more work yet to be done.
Of course there was a lesson in there as well not to dawdle, and I know if Dad we’re here he’d want me to hurry this up.
These days mourning my father’s loss have been tough, for me, my brother, our mother, our family, and for all who knew how big and how strong David’s heart was. But the condolences we’ve received, from all who are gathered today, and many who could not join us, have been overwhelming.
This loss, and the subsequent embrace of love and support, has provided me with a sharpening of focus as to what it is that truly matters: the importance of family, the importance of time with those we love, and the importance of the work we all share, each one of us, to better ourselves, our communities, our great country, and our planet. These are lessons I know David would have wanted to share.
We didn’t get to that Giants game last summer, but I’ll never forget Dad taking me and my brother to Memorial Stadium as kids, and the game we shared at Fenway last April. We didn’t get to have all three Davids at the beach, but we did connect across the thousands of miles via technology and screens soon after David III was born. Luca, Finnegan and I didn’t get to take him on our backpack fishing trip, but I’ll never forget running with my dad on a trail high up in the Sierra Nevada a couple of years ago.
Bapa is in our hearts. I’ll remember him when I run, our strides and heart rates matching up as we click off miles on the W&OD trail. I’ll remember him each time I redline edit a colleague’s document, grateful for the crafts he made sure I mastered. I’ll remember him when I shoulder a heavy pack, and head off on a trail to find adventure- a habit I’m so glad my father instilled in me. And I’ll always think of him with my toes in the smooth gravel beach of the cold, rejuvenating waters of Lake Tahoe, with the feet of his grandchildren next to mine.