In celebration of a friend

July 15, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Posted in country life, dogs, faith, family, love, marriage, summer | 31 Comments
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Two Swans Enjoy an Afternoon on Daves Piece of River

Two Swans Enjoy an Afternoon on Dave's Piece of River

I have not known him very long; he and his wife are our closest neighbors east of our place about a half mile down the road. Their place is right on the river, with a beautiful wide flat spot providing access directly to the river. Of course, having lived here for just a little over two years I could not have known him very long.

Not long after I moved to the farm I heard of this man, our neighbor. I heard he was a good man, but that some people found him seemingly gruff and a little too boisterous, I got the idea some people might have misunderstood him a little because of that. I think my first contact with him was when he showed up as the first emergency responder when an ambulance was called to our place one evening. He was one of the volunteers in the area who would show up to secure an area, flag down the ambulance, control traffic and tell a person to hang on because someone would be along soon to help.

A Piece of Equipment He LovedWhat struck me most when I met him was the incredible tenderness and concern with which he treated someone very dear to me who was hurting, scared, and trembling. He was gentle, his voice reassuring, the care and compassion in his demeanor was unmistakable, his presence was soothing. I met him when his tender underbelly was exposed; I met him when he was at his best.

That was my first impression of him, and the only one that ever mattered to me. That, and his name: Dave.

Last summer after my art show, “Beginning at Barnum”, after I brought the unsold portion of my paintings home, he and his wife came down for dessert and a sort of private show of their own. He loved those paintings and wondered if someday I might come down to his place and sit on the bank of the river and paint the view. I had not been down to that part of their property, so I was not aware what a beautiful space he had right on the river.

He told me the most beautiful time is in the autumn, when the trees are at their richest turning of colors on a clear day when the water is still. I told him I would enjoy painting his view someday, and I this past autumn I went over a couple of times to start photographing the area and getting to know it so I would have an idea of what I would want to communicate about it as a painter.

This has been a busy year, so I only as far as making some photographs. It is a beautiful spot they have there, and down off to the west of their river access area there is a path along the bank of the river that goes a pretty good distance. My husband and I walked along there, and up stream a ways we found some swans and ducks enjoying a beautiful autumn day on the river. It was gently breathtaking.

The Path Along Dave's Piece of RiverAs I got to know Dave more, I realized he loved his place much as we love ours. I got a sense that he yearned to share the beauty of the place with others, for others to know just how precious and gorgeous, peaceful it is. Once I was telling him of a dream I have to host a retreat at our place for artists sometime here in Western New York and how I wanted the artists and I to go around to various locations painting outdoors. His eyes sparkled at the mention and he said, “And one day you would have them over here at my place to paint the river, right?”

Yes, Dave. Definitely, yes.

Over the winter we didn’t hear from Dave or his wife, and I wondered if I had let him down by not having gotten started on a painting of his beautiful little piece of Earth yet. I wasn’t sure if he understood how long it takes for me to plan new paintings and work them into the schedule.

As the winter wore on and spring came around, I had a strange inkling that something was not right with Dave. Sometimes I have clear intuition about things before they have been spoken, and I got a strong feeling Dave had been diagnosed with cancer.

Then, in early May he stopped by and told my husband that he had lung cancer; my suspicion was confirmed. I wish I had been wrong.

He was undergoing treatment that was supposed to give him another year or two, but a few weeks ago the doctors ceased his treatment because it was not working and it was clear his time had come. His wife cared for him at home with the help of hospice, her sons, their wives, and children. His wife asked that I stop in for daily visits to help her cope, which I was glad to do.

It is a strange thing to witness someone passing away gradually, much as what happened with my oldest brother three years ago. It hurts, it is tragic, and yet it is also poignant, intimate, and beautiful if you have an opportunity to help create an atmosphere of peace and love for that person.

Dave spent his last days in a hospital bed in his living room, with the windows open, breezes gently blowing, birds singing and chirping, and the sounds of his family outside doing yard work, inside chatting quietly, sharing stories, even laughter from time to time.

If he had to go, this was the most merciful way for that to happen — surrounded by the familiar sounds, smells, touch, sights of the gracious little piece of Earth he called his own. A subtly elegant piece of land along a quiet little river during the warm days of summer when windows can be open and clean air can flow.

One portion of the view of the river from Dave's placeYesterday I stopped in to see his wife again, but this time she had been told there were only hours left. We sat together with him, quietly at times, chatting a bit at others, finding things to softly laugh at in spite of sadness of the situation.

After about an hour I left, and as I stepped outside his young rottweiler, Bandit, about the age of our sweet Blu, approached me on the porch. That great big dog looked up at me with clear, sad eyes. I touched his head and he pressed his face against me very hard. I could tell that he knew, and he needed comfort as much as any human did. I sat down with him, stroked his head and said whatever soothing things came to me. He continued to press the side of his face against me hard, seeming to ask me to please stay with him just a bit longer.

Dave raised that rottweiler, trained him, and took him all over the place with him. They were best buddies. As I stroked the gentle giant and looked into his sweet brown eyes, I was thinking about this neighbor who some people may have thought was gruff or a bit too boisterous. What a teddy bear Dave was and Bandit gives a clear glimpse into the heart of the man who was his master.

Last evening at 6:15 p.m. our neighbor Dave passed away. He lived a private life on a quiet country road out in the middle of … well, it isn’t the middle of no where, but it is the middle of not very much. Dave did nothing spectacular to draw attention to himself. He served his community well as a volunteer of the local fire and rescue squad. He was a father of three fine sons, and husband to one of the kindest and gentlest ladies I have ever met, and grandfather to four beautiful and treasured grandchildren. For some number of years he took care of one of the bridges on the Erie Canal, he had a great old tractor that he loved and used whenever he had a chance.

Close up shot of the wheel of Dave's tractorHe loved telling a good joke and always went into an Irish brogue when doing so. I actually thought he was Irish because of his tendency to do this. The last time we were able to have a conversation with him, Dave admitted he didn’t have any actual Irish in him. My husband said, “Or, the only Irish you have in you is the kind you get out of a bottle,” (meaning a Guiness, of course). That was a good one, and it gave Dave a good chuckle.

I don’t personally know enough about his life to pay him proper tribute, afterall–I have not known him very long. All I can do is say that I saw him, I noticed some of the things that were most special about him and appreciated the fact that I could, for a little while, count him among my friends.

He touched our lives, my life, although he hardly had time to do so. He was a man worth knowing, and I think he would love knowing that you, whoever you are, got a chance to see just how pretty his place by the river was.

Cheers, Dave. See you down the road.

Beautiful View of the River From Dave's Place

Beautiful View of the River From Dave's Place

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31 Comments »

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  1. What a beautiful tribute. I can’t stop the tears!

  2. Oh my goodness. My eyes just welled up with tears. What a nice post, what beautiful pictures and it sounds like he was quite a man. Thank you for sharing. I wish his family and friends peace and condolences.

  3. Once again you have touched my heart.

  4. I just found your blog tonight…what a beautiful post. Dave sounds like a special man.

  5. My thoughts and prayers are with all the family and friends of Dave. His little piece of heaven on earth is absolutely beautiful. I think he would be very pleased with your tribute to him and his spot by the little river. The last picture is gorgeous and would look lovely on canvas! Now what to name whatever picture you paint? Isn’t it something how we all have lost people known for short and long periods of time lately? Makes us take pause in life.

  6. P.S. The last picture made me think it is saying: “I am a reflection of life”. The trees changing colors to rest during the winter, but still reflecting their glorious colors on the water. Ever changing life.

  7. What a breath taking view of the river. What you did was the most we can do. To help out and ease the pain of illness and passing. His poor pup I’m so glad you recognized his need.
    Blessings

  8. A very beautiful tribute to your neighbor. How fortunate they were to have you in their lives even if the time were brief. I think we are all where we need to be. What a beautiful place you captured in your photos.

  9. Thank you for sharing your tribute to Dave. It just goes to show that sometimes gruffness just covers a tender heart. I will always remember Dave and his beautiful spot.

  10. Your gift with words lead me to enter the lives of Dave and his family deeply. The eyes of different people see different things when viewing a human like Dave. You saw a good man with a caring heart and conveyed that to us. May he rest in peace and his family find comfort in knowing he found a painless place hopefully as beautiful as his place by the river.

  11. May we all be remembered so beautifully…

  12. incredibly moving tribute to a gentle person. May his journey to the other side be surrounded by love and joy

  13. It sounds to me that you knew Dave quite well. I am so sorry that he is gone, but relieved that his pain is no longer a problem for him. Thank you for being his friend and how incredibly sweet of you for comforting his best buddy in his time of need.

  14. I am so sorry to hear about your neighbor… I am glad he had neighbors like you and his family near him during his final days. Thank-you for sharing Dave with us… You and his family are in my prayers at this difficult time. Blessings, Debra

  15. What a lovely tribute to your neighbor. He sounds like a wonderful man. Many thoughts and prayers are going out to his family!

  16. This description of Dave reminded me so much of my own father…..thank you for your tribute to him and all those like him in this world.

  17. I absolutely love your blog! You have such a talent – it appears in so many different areas. What a gorgeous place to live. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting upstate New York just once with my husband. We drove over to Niagara Falls from Cleveland when he was working there once. Our favorite time during the entire trip was the leisurely drive through the country. It was winter and just beautiful. Thanks for sharing your life with so many.

  18. Oh, yes, I wanted to tell you that your photos are perfect. I’ve really enjoyed them. They add so much.

  19. This tribute is so touching, so beautifully written. It provides such insight into Dave — and, frankly into you… What a privilege it must be to know you and count you as a friend.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with me and everyone else who has been fortunate enough to find your blog and this posting.

    Judy Stines

  20. Another inspiring post. It saddens me that I know nothing of my neighbors and have lived in this (city) house 6 years already. Makes me nostalgic for upstate NY life.

    You might like a blog I recently discovered:

    http://37days.typepad.com/37days/2005/01/why_37_days.html

  21. What a beautiful Tribute. You have such a way of telling a story and capturing the right mood with the right words. I just love reading your blog.

  22. The photos are beautiful. Dave was a blessed man to live in such a beautiful place and have such loving friends! My prayers are with his family. You brought tears to my eyes, but joy to my heart to be reminded in such a way that life is truly good!

  23. You gave a beautiful tribute to Dave with your story. Thank you for sharing such tender and caring words.

  24. It is often the quiet and misunderstood people who leave the deepest footprints on our lives. It would seem that your friend and neighbor was one of those people. There will be a large hole in your community for a while after his passing. Thank you for sharing him with all who read your blog. You made him very real to us and we too will miss the gentle man that lived down the road on the river in a corner of God’s country known as the Genesee Valley.

  25. You say that you didn’t know Dave well enough for a proper tribute, but the one you have written could not be more beautiful & heartfelt, and that is what a proper tribute should be. Thank you for sharing Dave with us and I look forward to viewing your paintings of Dave’s River.

  26. It seems as if both of you were lucky to spend time with each other. And we are priveledged to share through such a tender tibute. My prayers and warm thoughts go out to you, his family and Bandit.

  27. Maybe you haven’t known him long, maybe you don’t know much of his life, but you did understood who Dave was deep inside. And the tribute you’re paying to him is one of the simplest yet most loving and moving and respectful I’ve ever read. I do hope that his wife and family find some consolation in gazing at this place he loved so much…

  28. hi! thanks so much for your comments about Dave! you are really right on the money about him; he came across a bit harsh but he was a peach with the softest coat! he was my favorite cousin and one of my best friends I will surely miss him but he will always be a treasure I’ll hold dear in my heart!!! I was blessed beyond all imagining for having known him! God bless his dear family-love to you all!

  29. Dave is our Brother inlaw, Living out west we were limited on our visits with him but spoke on the phone often. Him and Anita were able to come spend a week with us on our ranch in Northern Wyoming. We all purchased a couple of mares and breed them. the first one was born a few months before Dave passed away and he would always ask about them, this is another piece of Dave that showed his soft side. We will miss all the phone visits, The second filly was born just before he got real bad so we have told Anita that she need to name this one on honor of Dave and his part that he played in helping to have her (the colt) in our lives.
    Your tibute could not have been easy to do but you have a way of bringing out the best of his live and the pictures are awesome

  30. P.S. As I was reading this to Olie he made a comment about when Dave passed away we had called out there and You awsered the phone and he spoke with you for a while. He felt as though he was chatting with family as you told him some of how the last bit of Dave’s life was and we are so thankful you were there to help in such a difficult time. We are soooo glad that Anita will have you and all her family by her.

  31. What a lovely tribute to Dave. Thank you for sharing your friend with us. We never know how much we can mean to someone else and the greatest gift is to be remembered. You know how much I love my puppies and it warmed my heart so much to read of how you were not only there for Dave and his wife but for Bandit also. I’m sure Bandit appreciated being remembered in his time of sorrow also.


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