I was barely four years old but I remember the day my brother was born. Although we always called him David, he was formally named Richard David after uncles on both sides. On the day David was born my brother Ron and I were at our maternal grandparents house. I remember trying to take a nap, at least that is what we were supposed to be doing. But instead the house was filled with anxious excitement as we awaited news of the birth.
His life was never easy. Before he was two, David and I were living with my paternal grandparents while my mother and Ron lived with a friend. My parents were getting a divorce. My mother, at the young age of 22, with three kids under the age of 5, was determined to build a better life for her and her kids.
That better life never really transpired.
David was the third child in our family, preceded by me, the
oldest, and Ron who was born 14 months after me. Our youngest brother,
Don, was born five years after David, a second marriage for my mother. Paul,
the second husband, eventually adopted Ron, David, and me. So along with
Don, we were a family of four kids.
A household with an unstable mother
and an alcoholic father. Ron, Don, and I have had to some hard work to be healthy, high functioning human beings. David took a different path.
Despite the trauma of our lives, due to the instability of our parents, as kids we kids made the best of it. David was always my sweet little brother. Cheerful, playful, unassuming. I helped him with homework. We climbed trees, played football in the yard, and rode bikes. David lived with me for a long while when I was a young adult. David had dark brown hair and brown eyes, features that ran on both sides of the family, but made him distinctive looking among the four of us children, the other three of us being blue-eyed with blond or red hair.
David spent a lifetime struggling with addiction. Well, let me rephrase that. He did not struggle - he loved to drink. He embraced it whole-heartedly and loved every minute of life. His favorite memories include spending time listening to music at the Town Hall Pub, whose motto is "Helping Chicago Get Drunk Since 1969..." (sigh). David also loved nature. He loved to sit near the lake or a river with, as he would say, a case of beer, and relax - watching the water flow.
Always one to crack a joke or remember something funny, David was good humored. He spent his life as an iron worker, welding metal. He was an artist who helped create at least one of the old Chicago cow sculptures that lined the streets in 1999. I am not sure which one he worked on....
David lived "off the grid" working in Michigan City and Chicago for various welders, artists, and construction companies.
But eventually his life of drinking and smoking took a toll on him. He had a stroke which left him debilitated. He got cancer of the tongue and underwent surgery, chemo, and radiation. During much of that time I went with him to appointments, brought him to my home for holidays, and became his power of attorney. (Not that he had any assets, but at least the nursing home knew who to call for questions or emergencies). He spent the last 5 years of his life in a medicaid nursing home. He was unable to eat solid food, unable to walk well, and unable to speak well. He took anti-psychotic medication. My brothers and I supplied him with many books, a television and many movie DVD's, and a cell phone. He loved to read and really loved to text on his cell phone - finally a way to communicate!
Last summer I was delighted to spend a few hours with two of my brothers, Don and Dave. We took David out for ice cream - one of his favorite outings. This is also the day we got him his first cell phone. He was crabby that day and wouldn't let us teach him how to text - but eventually he figured it out.
Yesterday morning Don went to see David. He brought him some personal items. Don said that David was having issues breathing, but didn't seem to be too bad. Certainly Don did not think David was suffering or near death. Nonetheless something happened a few hours later. An episode of some sort which caused the nursing home to call the paramedics. Unfortunately David was not to be revived.
The phone call from the nursing home stunned me. Certainly I anticipated this death. But some how one is never really ready when it comes.
I am grateful that Don visited David earlier that day. Grateful that one of David's final hours was spent with family, someone who loves him.
David was not a religious person, so nothing church related will happen. Instead we will hold two celebrations of life later this summer - one in Chicago and one in Utah. My brother's and I and our cousin Stacey will help create these celebrations. I think we will plan to scatter his ashes in or near bodies of water...perhaps Lake Michigan and a mountain river that runs through our Dad's property in Utah. David would like that, to flow on in the places that brought him the most joy and peace.
Rest in peace sweet David. Celebrate well in your new, unencumbered life!
In loving memory of Richard David (Kenney) Cole born May 27, 1961 and born into his next life April 7, 2013.