Words I spoke at my brother’s memorial in North Olmsted, Ohio.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about my brother Dave. We actually began our lives here in Ohio. In 1953 we moved to California when our Dad was transferred by the Navy. And years later, in 1971 Dave moved his family back to Ohio. Although he loved San Diego and the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful beaches, (one of his favorite things to do was body surf) he also loved Ohio with its older homes, quieter neighborhoods, trees, fishing on Lake Erie and especially having the four seasons. We had many visits over the years, but they were never often enough or long enough.
Dave was my only sibling for a long time. We have a dear brother, Jonny, but he’s 30 years younger than us and we didn’t get to know him well until he was an adult. Brothers and sisters have a unique relationship; for many years it was Dave and me and we told each other everything. When we were kids I never let him forget that I was thirteen months older and he had to do everything I said. That worked for awhile until he grew up. Then he told me a thing or two.
I was so proud of the things he accomplished. Mom and I were beaming the day he graduated from high school; he went to college for awhile; I bragged to everyone when he joined the Army and became a paratrooper with the elite 101st airborne; my son David and I were two of the first to visit him when he returned from the Vietnam War on a stretcher with critical injuries. Three days before he was due to come home the truck he was riding in was involved in a mine explosion. Dave lost his left leg and right foot. His recovery was long, but he worked hard. I was so grateful and proud when he got a good position at United Airlines and worked there for many years. The birth of his five children were monumental events in his life; Dave made a mean meat loaf and he loved cats and dogs.
But what do you think he might say to you if he were standing here? I know he’d be uncomfortable. He’d shift his weight and look at the floor and probably start with, “Geez oh man.” But then maybe he’d get up some courage and he’d tell his children, David, Joe, Glenn, Michelle and Danielle, that there wasn’t a day that you weren’t on his heart and mind. He didn’t know how to express this. He felt overwhelming love for you in his heart, but it embarrassed him to say that; even frightened him. Dave and I had never received many loving words when we were young; they didn’t come naturally. But when we talked on the phone several times a week, he always mentioned his concern for his family.
In November of 2003 Dave came to California for a visit. He was struggling and he was seeking some answers. One of the things we did was go to church on Sunday. It was the week after we’d had terrible fires in San Diego County. Two families in our church had lost everything they owned. Our pastor, Ray DuVal, talked about family and love and compassion. Dave had always resisted what he called “my preaching.” We didn’t see eye to eye on some things. But he said this time was the first time he realized it wasn’t about religion, it was about people and relationships. Later that day, in my living room, Dave bowed his head, closed his eyes and with tears, he prayed and asked the Lord Jesus to come into his life and into his heart. In the days before he went home, he told me over and over, “I’ve had a heart change. I’ve really been transformed.” (I didn’t even know he knew that word.) He said, “I can hardly wait to tell my family what a jerk I’ve been and ask them to forgive me.” Those were his words not mine.
Just about a month ago Dave went to a little church here called Grace Church of North Olmsted. I had done some research and told him about it. “You oughta check it out.” Well he did and he called that afternoon and said he liked it, thought he might go back and he did go the following Sunday. I know he felt like a duck out of water, he never did like to go into a new situation alone, but I sure give him credit for getting out of his comfort zone. That took courage.
He said the pastor talked about Matthew and Mark and Peter and he figured he’d better start reading his Bible to figure out who these guys were and what they did. Dave didn’t enjoy reading, but he told me he was reading his Bible and learning things he didn’t know. What I began to see was love and joy and a heart wanting to obey the word of God.
The family chose the perfect verse for the holy card that will be used tomorrow at his funeral. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; and now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His glorious return.” This is a true and perfect culmination of Dave’s life. He was fighting the good fight, he finished his course, and he kept the faith. He did the best he knew how to do.
There’s something else Dave wants his family to know. He didn’t get a chance to tell you, but he told me. He wants you to know that God so loved the world, that means each and every one of you, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life. Dave wants you to know that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” You see Dave wants you to have what he has. You are dear to him and he wants your future to be secure. He wants to see you again.
I’m sorry Dave’s life was cut short. I’m selfish; I wish we’d had more time with him. And I may have tears in my eyes, but I am a happy, happy woman. You see because of Dave’s prayer and commitment to the Lord, when he closed his eyes on earth last week; he opened them in heaven and saw His Savior waiting for him. I can only imagine what it must look like. My brother is now whole and complete, he’s walking perfectly and he will meet his mom and dad on that beautiful shore by the crystal sea. Death is not pretty, but heaven is a beautiful place and that’s where Dave is now. Who can be unhappy about that?
Changing You, Little by Little