There’s a text I keep on my phone as a reminder to do better. It’s nothing profound, just a reminder, sent to me on my 30th birthday.
You grown! Hope you have a wonderful day, sweetie pie. So appreciative to have you as such an important part of our lives in SF! BTW life 30 + rocks. Love and hugs. *this is David
David was my hometown friend, Sean’s, husband. They had welcomed me into their home as I made the 2+ hour commute between Santa Cruz and Oakland to keep a job with my education nonprofit. I would drive up at 5:30 in the morning on Monday, stay with “my boys” on Tuesday night (typically after Yoga for the People and pupusas down the street in the Mission), then return to work on Wednesday. Sean and David’s place was my sanctuary, my haven, where I had a key and a futon and two humans whose generosity meant the world to me.
The last time I saw David, he was doing cartwheels at the beach in just his underwear. We hadn’t planned to get into the ocean, but he never let logistics stand in the way of a good idea. So, giggling like a maniacal three-year old, he stripped down, turned a few handsprings on the sand and we ran into the cold water, our partners rolling their eyes and grinning at us from the warm safety of the shore. Had I known that would be the last time I saw David, I don’t think I’d have changed a thing.
David lived the way we all aspire to—freely and open, with a love and compassion for others that drew people in, but also being perfectly content to spend the day privately with his Sean and their muppet of a puppy, Bella. Bella Beyonce Dougherty Miljoner, of course. Even David’s future mother-in-law, who resisted the way her son loved for years and who became the frequent subject of conversation when we checked in on Sean – even she confessed at David’s shivah that she’d had a long road to accepting her son, but that David had opened her heart. Steadfast patience, persistent love, and the conviction that someday, people would come around. David crept steadily into everyone’s heart, the jerk, and left us all better.
We’re quick to romanticize those who have passed, so inclined to represent these perfect beings and anyone who dares to speak their full humanity is brushed aside. David wasn’t perfect, but he did live in a way that set an example I’ve thought of nearly every week since we lost him. Not to diminish other people’s truth in grieving, but the fact is – I always thought the stories about, “So-an-so showed up at the DMV today!” were very Long Island Medium, and frankly – bullshit. When people leave us in this world, maaaaaybe they go on to some other realm, but why would they waste their time appearing before us mortals? They got shit to DO, you know? And David put in his work making our lives better on the first go-around, so if we didn't get the message then, why's it on him to come back and be all, "do better"?
Anyhow, the hardened skeptic and relapsing Christian went into a ferocious spiritual battle at a triathlon last Fall where a good friend of mine showed up in a way that simultaneously delighted and freaked me out. Getting out of the ocean onto the bike and into my running shoes all went according to plan, and I felt good. The temperatures were climbing through the morning, the fog burning off, and the last miles of the run began to hurt. Fatigue is something you train for mentally and physically but you never quite know how it's gonna go down. 1 mile left from the finish and I was losing steam. This is when I typically turn inward and the inner monologue starts to say, "Why do I do this? I should really get into knitting" or other irreverent variations of, "OW, this sucks!!"
But I had a surprise guest on the show this week and instead I heard, "Hi sweetie pie", and it swept me up with such a force to recognize David's voice that tears came to my eyes. He went on, "Looks like it's getting tough out here. How you doin'?" and I told him how much distance we had left (he was in this until the finish, as far as I was concerned) and in my mind's eye, he started being silly, running ahead of me with that giggle of his and making boob jokes. I told him, "Dude, you sure know how to read the room" (referring to the pain cave I was in) and until I got to the finish line, I had a grin on my face that other people mistook for energy and enjoying the race, but it was really my own blend of surrender and experiencing the ethereal love of a good friend who decided to say hello again.
I finished that race 15 minutes faster than last year and the run went from an 8:22 min/mile pace to 7:43 by the end. That's the fastest I've done a 10K since college. Maybe this is all an egotistical hallucination, but at this point, I don't really care. I got to spend a mile with David and that's worth being crazy.