If you are new to this blog of the upcoming book Viking Funeral, celebrating the life of Dave Linane with booze, words, and fire, welcome. The timeline above shows you where we are in the book. While each chapter can stand on its own if you wish to read from the beginning, click here. More info is available, About Dave or the FAQ section explains who the book is about and the arc of the storyline. If you found me through a grief group, this page of my perspective of why we are all here in this place right now may be helpful. XO M
Everyone had been called, emailed, got the memo, food, booze, tables and chairs, linens, were ordered and delivered, the yard and house were ready, our playlist was set up, we were now ready for the par-tay.
Dave kept every friend he ever made and remained in their hearts regardless of the distance between them. He was so endearing. He was kind, thoughtful, gracious, humble. He always did the right thing. He had your back and always defended the underdog. He had a certain calm easiness about him, an awareness, a confidence within his own skin. He was funny and quick to laugh. Dave’s physical talent had been impressive. His life took a scary turn, then grew to be amazing and definitely inspirational when it comes to finding joy in everyday life, living well and purposefully. People were simply drawn to him.
We had no idea how many people might show up. In our conversations with close friends throughout that week prior we followed the very sophisticated crowd planning math tactic of our long-time friend and renowned party planner, Billie Daniel who suggested in her native Texan accent: “Ya add up the number of people in yer family…and ya add 80.” We have a large family, so we planned for that plus 80 so about 200 to make sure we had enough food, booze, and chairs.
People arrived from near and far away. Two fire station crews came-not because of the risk of fire but because they were fond of Dave and to support Dave’s best friend and fireman (their captain), Brian. The two fire trucks were double-parked in the street right outside the back gate. All the little kids were stoked to be able to climb all over the trucks while their parents took pictures.
We set up a table outside our back gate for people to sign the guest book and if they wanted to burn a note in the bonfire transformation ceremony, there were pens and cards for people to do so. Some people wrote a favorite inside joke they shared with Dave; some wrote a reminder of an adventure. Some people wrote recipes because Dave loved food and loved to supervise anyone he could get to cook or bake with his input and ‘back seat driver chef’ his way through to the finished product. Most people wanted to tell us what they wrote and why before heading into the yard.
Besides our extended family, all the expected friends of Dave’s, my Mom’s (and Dad’s) friends from forever showed up as well as the longtime friends of Linda, Scott, Anne and surprisingly, mine too (I guess my nerds still read the paper). We, of course, met a few new friends of Dave’s we didn’t know, and that was a joy too. It was very overwhelming in the best way possible to feel their love for our Dave, for us.
In the process of greeting people at the gate and hearing their stories from their notes for the fire, we were encouraging everyone away from any tears, asking them to join us being happy for Dave, that he was no longer stuck in that body.
It was a mild summer evening for July in Southern California. The energy of our guests completely shifted once they passed over the threshold of our back gate. The great music, the smell of Mexican food grilling and friendly familiar faces everywhere allowed people to mingle, to immediately connect with their humanity like they really needed to in dealing with this huge collective loss. The backdrop of the tall hedges around the perimeter of the yard with the lights in the old elm trees created the perfect lush atmosphere of beauty and privacy to amplify and contain the joy of the crowd who was growing in their awareness that they were a part of and witnessing something truly special.
We set up a podium and the bonfire pit in the lowest, grassy part of the yard, opposite the gated entrance. The ‘audience’ portion of the yard was set up like a dinner theater with round tables and chairs everywhere a round table and chairs would fit. If there was a flat space, tables and chairs were on it.
Out of the gate, the bar was ready to go to serve our first guests with typical boozy booze or at another drink station; margaritas flowed from a magical bottomless machine that cranked them out nonstop like self-serve adult snow cones. Dinner, catered by a taco truck was ready upon arrival as well as chips and salsa on all the tables. These were Dave’s faves. We cranked music from a playlist of his collection of classic rock turned up to Spinal Tap 11 basically, party volume. Actually, the music had been playing all day as we set up. I’ve recreated the 11-hour playlist called Viking Funeral on Spotify. (Menu link on the blog).
Our historical conditioning of what to expect at a funeral looks something like this: We go to a church or a mortuary. We remain isolated in our socially required quietness for a period of time. A formulaic liturgic order is followed with singing some religious songs that may or may not be applicable to the person being memorialized. Words are read from the Bible, which again, may or may not apply to the person being memorialized. People will stand up and say some words. Often it is very uncomfortable witnessing them speak as they struggle with their grief and their words at this very stressful time. A pastor or priest will reiterate things they were told about the decedent who they may or may not know. General words of hope are spoken. Money is exchanged for these services.
Then everyone gets in their car to drive to a cemetery, or we walk to the grave where we remain quiet, isolated in our collective grief, side-by-side for the graveside stuff. Often it is brutally hot especially given how dehydrated we may be from crying. Way more money exchanges hands for this stuff, maybe even credit is extended or payment plans.
Lastly, you then drive elsewhere to eat some party platter food with a smaller crowd than initially came to the first thing at the church. It takes so long to ramp up to the heart of the matter of coping with the loss or supporting each other as a group with the sharing of stories, hugging, crying openly together, laughing, and eating. It is this formula that is just unbearable to me and that I simply could not face when planning my dad’s memorial and definitely not for Dave’s.
My husband always makes an emphatic point of saying that he “HATES funerals” when one is on our horizon. I ask him every time, “Again, have you EVER met ANYONE who likes funerals? He shakes his head no (for the I don’t know how many times he has shaken his head no when we have had this conversation). That’s right. Everyone hates funerals. But we go anyway.” This funeral was already not like anything anyone had ever attended, myself included. This was a Viking Funeral, custom, made-to-suit.
People milled about the backyard and house enjoying seeing one another somewhat like a high school reunion. They hugged across rented chairs and tables, they told funny “remember that time we…” stories. They then headed for the bar, grabbed chips and salsa, back for more stories, more visiting with other people, then food, in that general order.
As I watched from the upstairs bathroom window that overlooks the back yard, a favorite vantage point of mine, I didn’t notice any tears. I only heard laughter, and I could see everything. Everyone was laughing and genuinely enjoying being together. It was amazing. There was so much hugging and laughter I loved every minute. Even as introverted as I am, as separate as I kept myself, I loved being there, watching, witnessing from both the window upstairs and among the crowd. Even though no one loves a funeral, I loved being there. I loved knowing with complete certainty that his life was so well lived, that he was so loved. And it smelled so great too, tacos! Dave so loved a party, he loved party food, beer and he loved people. He really would have loved this bash. I kept looking for him at the edge of my peripheral vision but then remembered…”oh, ya– that.”
It was growing dark. I had to get all my ducks in a row. I planned to add some of my dad’s ashes to the bonfire to start the fire and tribute act of the evening. His ashes were somewhere in my mom’s house but being pulled many directions at once with this very full house of well-wishing people; I could not reach her to ask her where they were. Everyone had eaten, and margarita’d. We were going to be getting started soon. A solution came to me. My mom used to have some of my dad’s ashes in the glove box of her car; maybe they were still in there. It’s a long story.
Ok, long story short, my dad had a fascination with Asia. A friend of mine was going to take a trip to China. I asked him if he would take some of my dad’s ashes with him to put in the Yangtze River. He agreed. But when I brought the ashes to work, my friend, an older very conservative gentleman who had somehow never seen any human ashes in his life, thought they looked too much like ‘cocaine drugs’ to take through security or customs in China. Apparently, he had never seen cocaine either because human ashes basically look like very course, gray gravel. Not that I know that much about cocaine, but I have seen that Al Pacino movie with that phrase “Say hello to my little friends…” Scarface, so, no. I could not help laughing.
I also had some vague memory that popped in my thoughts right at that moment, of it being illegal to transport random unsealed ashes by plane-but it was the thought that counts right? I understood his discomfort. So, I tossed the Ziploc baggy of my dad in my glovebox, where they remained until I sold the car to my mom. When she went to put the new title in her car, she found the baggy in the glovebox and called me to ask, “Mardi, is that your father in that baggy in the glovebox of the car?” We both laughed at how silly her question sounded for those who may be eavesdropping. I felt a little bad for forgetting him in there but could tell by her tone that she was not freaked out. I reminded her of “The ‘cocaine drugs’ incident and that I didn’t think it was a bad idea to keep his ashes in the car for company or to watch over me and then I just forgot he was in there.” She agreed and had already made the same assumption and had tossed them right back in. Now I am wondering if she removed them when she sold the car a few years later. That is my long story, short.
I went to the garage to see if they were still in the glovebox and they were. I grabbed them and headed out to the back yard with my notes, a string from Dave’s letterman jacket and my dad in a Ziploc bag in hand.
After about two hours of hugging, drinking, eating tacos, story-swapping, musical chairs hopping from table to table visiting with people and getting people to write their thoughts down on bonfire cards, we started encouraging people to grab a drink and find a spot to sit down. People were coming up to us throughout the food and booze act, asking if they too could say a few words. The list was growing. We just let it unfold.
Dave was unaffiliated spiritually speaking, so we were not following a formulaic liturgy as outlined above. My sister Linda and I stood at the podium next to the fire pit and thanked everyone for coming. I read the three-page obituary tribute with the Viking Funeral explanation and Viking designation of Dave just in case anyone at the event had not “gotten the Viking Warrior memo.” I explained that we would be starting the fire with our dad’s ashes and a thread from Dave’s Letterman’s jacket along with a printed copy of the Viking Warrior obituary. I have included just an excerpt here to avoid spoiling the contents of the following chapters. The entire tribute is at the end of the book. Brian helped us light the fire and those with drinks raised a glass as he did so.
Vikings burned their boats when they landed a beach. They intended to conquer or die in the process of achieving what they came for, empire building. There was no going back in the life of a Viking. David was a twenty-first century Viking warrior. After breaking his neck, he always moved forward in life without complaint, without looking back. He was a gentleman, a natural protector of everyone and did not need the ordinary use of arms or legs to be brave. He lived with honor and dignity every day and treated everyone with respect.
I then read the many lovely words and sweet stories sent to us by complete strangers that became fast friends, more friends, family members who could not be with us or those who were too shy to stand up and speak. People had things to say.
From a former neighbor Mary Ann:
I know you do not remember me, but I do believe you used to know my parents, Glenn and Mildred Buhrle. We lived at the end of 25th, across the street from Barbara.
My parents walked to church every day as well as walk around the neighborhood. Dad, who passed away in the driveway in 99, used to talk about David all the time and how he used to talk to them. This meant a lot to dad and mom, as they felt they were one of the oldest couples in the neighborhood.
When dad passed away, David attended his funeral. It meant so much to my brother Bob and me to see him there.
Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in ‘96’. There were many times when mom would run off from dad, and we had to look for her, David would somehow appear to help us out. He was the Guardian Angel of 25th Street. David was the only one that could calm mom down.
I met David and your family when they first moved to 25th Street. Your whole family was sooo nice.
David saved my neck one afternoon when I was 16. I had borrowed my brothers’ Jeep without permission to cruise a little. However, by the time I had gotten to the convent in front of Holy Rosary, the Jeep had stalled. Since I was only 16, I did not realize that cars ran on gas. So I kept turning the engine over and over again. I did not want to walk home and tell my brother or parents, or they would have grounded me for life. It was about 30 minutes later when I saw David walk across the street and ask if I needed help.
I told him that the Jeep wouldn’t start and that my brother was going to kill me. He laughed. Then he asked for the keys so that he could check the engine. The first thing that he said, ‘You are out of gas.”
Then he started looking at the switches on the dashboard and under the seat when he had found what he was looking for. He flipped the switch under the seat then tried to start the engine again. And it worked. I would have hugged him; however, at 16, I was really kind of shy. David said that the switch was to a reserve tank. I thought he was one of the smartest people that I had ever known.
I did keep saying ‘Thank you…thank you…thank you about a hundred times. Then I asked him if he needed a ride home… but he was only about 100 ft away.
He saved my life that day. And we became friends ever since.
My brother Bob remembers David too. We were talking last night about how David was so nice to our parents. I believe he found dad when he had the heart attack in the driveway.
I know in my heart that he will be around you forever. That is the way David is.
Please let me know where the service will be. I am going to try and make it.
Thank you for the story of David. He would have loved it.
Hugs and Prayers
An Email from a friend of Dave’s who I did not know:
I would just like to share some of my favorite memories that I shared with Dave. We had a daily joke that we would share with each other. It was really fun because I obtained quite a bit of jokes from the time I spent in the Military. It was fun comparing a daily joke and was pretty much the core of our relationship. Dave seemed to enjoy the joke time because I think it took his mind off of the trials and tribulations that many of our students were enduring. I missed that time when I moved on and should have kept in closer touch because it was a real good time in my life too.
Here is one of the ones I think Dave enjoyed the most:
This merchant Marine got thrown overboard one night, after a big storm, and got marooned on a deserted island. After having spent four months on the island, he started to get urges. One day he was exploring and came upon a herd of sheep. He thought that he could sneak up on a sheep and have his way with it. He crept up and just as he was about to grab one of the sheep, a dog came out and barked wildly and scared the sheep away. The next day he tied up the dog and went exploring. He found the sheep again and just as he was going to catch one, the dog came out and scared the sheep away because he had chewed through the rope. This really depressed the man and as he and the dog were walking down the beach, he saw someone had washed up on the shore. When they got up to the person, it turned out to be a very beautiful woman. The man gave her mouth to mouth and revived her to which the woman was very grateful. The woman asked if there was anything she could do to show her gratitude. The man thought and thought, and the woman said she would do anything the man wanted. The man thought some more and asked if she was sure he could ask for anything and the woman told him absolutely anything. The man looked at the woman and asked her, “Can you hold this dog for about an hour.”
I can hear Dave laughing hearing it again.
Have a Peaceful Rest friend.
Email from a neighbor who worked at Cal State San Bernardino
I was sorry to hear the news about your brother. Turns out I will be out of town this weekend so I will miss the event on Saturday night.
I live at the SE corner of 25th and “D” – just down the street. I would see Dave at various times throughout the neighborhood. Once many years ago, I was on a training run when I came across Dave who was stuck in the gutter around 29th and Arrowhead. He asked for help in pushing him back out onto the street.
I will miss seeing him.
Email from Tom and Annette Harmon
First of all, Tom and I send the Linane family and all Dave’s many friends, our deepest condolences. There is no doubt that we have lost a treasure here on earth and he will be missed greatly.
I am so disappointed that we are not going to be able to attend the Viking Warrior celebration you are planning for tomorrow. It sounds like an awesome way to honor such a courageous man, and I’m sure it will be a beautiful ceremony. We will definitely be there in spirit, but since I won’t be there to share some stories, I thought I would let you know how I got to know Dave.
I remember hearing of Dave, Scott’s brother, who was injured in a tragic football accident. Later, I remember seeing him cruising all around town in his wheelchair. I was always so amazed at how far away from home he was and how fast that wheelchair could go! Whenever I saw him, I would feel so sad and momentarily try to imagine what he must have to deal with on an everyday basis; then I would go on with life as usual. I knew of the man in the wheelchair, but I didn’t really know him.
It wasn’t until we found ourselves renting a home on 25th Street that I got to know who Dave was. I can remember feeling a little bit intimidated walking my kids home from Holy Rosary, and he’d be sitting outside getting some fresh air greeting us passersby. I felt awkward; what do you say to a man in a wheelchair? But I didn’t want my kids to see my shortcomings, so I said a quick hello and moved on. Well, I don’t know how we eventually started chatting, probably through Barbara since we were right across the street from the Brzezinski’s and he cruised by so often, but once we did I finally got to know who Dave really was. We talked about politics, jobs, friends, family (esp. nieces and nephews), school; you name it. I remember thinking he was so smart! He knew about everything. But the one conversation that sticks out the most to me is when he told me the story of the day of his accident. He told me of considering ditching practice that day but changing his mind, then so matter of fact said “if it weren’t for that accident, I wouldn’t be the man I am standing here today,” of course chuckling about the standing part. I thought, “wow, this guy is incredible!” Needless to say, I was no longer intimidated by the man in the wheelchair; he was my friend. I no longer felt sad when I saw him and I’m sure that’s how he preferred it. How could you be sad for someone with such a love for life? His attitude toward life showed that he was o.k. with the path, he was chosen to lead, and he was going to do it with courage and strength! He taught me that self-pity is a waste of time and I consider that a great gift. He was an inspiration to everyone he met and something we all should aspire to be more like. I will never forget my friend Dave.
Much Love to you,
Annette and Tom
Email from our cousin Jim Moffatt:
Thomas David Linane, Dave to most, Big D to many, a cousin to me. We questioned why, we tried to understand, some say you were dealt a bad hand….
But your family was there to support you, just as they had supported my mom when she needed someone to lean on. And Dave you were there to be the “Big Brother” I never had. Summers swimming at the pool, playing catch, throwing the football around, taking hikes in the fields of Sweetwater, challenging me to some Mumblety-Peg, I always looked up to you. I remember Scott, Johnny, and I always trying to sneak up on you to throw you in the pool, only to have you send us time and time again into the deep end as you laughed from the diving board. Playing cards with your buddies, 5 card draw, deuces wild, 7 card “no look” and always at your side, Brian Petty, the very definition of a “best friend.” Smoking cigars, drinking a few beers and telling me to “….throw that Paul Simon album away and put on some Edgar Winter, I want to hear some Rock ‘n Roll”, whatever you want Dave…
Your heart was as big as your smile, your compassion as big as your laugh… I do however have to smile a bit when I think of the irony of the surgical Halo you acquired after your football injury…I believe it was you that acquired a few cherry bombs that we set off in some mailboxes on the early morning paper route and I am pretty sure you were there for my first beer….just telling it like it was “D”, you enjoyed yourself and we were lucky to be along for the ride…
I couldn’t have asked for a better cousin… Coming over to visit you, talking politics, arguing about sports and swapping stories about our families, I felt guilty getting up to leave and walking out the door. But those of us that visited you always left with a smile, with certain regrets and what ifs…but richer for having spent time with you.
David, as you look down upon this gathering today, you can see the many lives you have touched. We were all proud to say, Dave Linane, yeah, he’s my son, he’s my brother, he’s my friend….it was the Dave Linane club, everyone was invited, everyone was welcome.
I would like to ask from all gathered here today that your special thoughts and prayers should be with Sandra, Linda, Scott, Anne, Mardi, and their families. Dave won’t be wheeling around the yard anymore, but you have all become a part of the family. Remember them and know that you are always welcome to stop by to say hi or share a favorite DAVE memory.
And finally, Dave….thank you for your friendship, your love, your courage. I can’t imagine ever knowing a more heroic man than you…so turn up the stereo, play that rock ‘n roll as loud as you like, your turn to deal the cards cuz…
Love you, Dave,
From Dave’s Niece Stephanie:
I was extremely lucky to call David, my uncle, and even more lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up around him. I have many memories of him that I will cherish; he was a great listener and was always there for me when I went through some tough things when I was younger. He was there to guide me, give me advice and throw in the occasional (actually often) bad joke. Such a jokester. Dave possessed a spirit, unlike any other person I have ever met, and he also possessed a very distinctive laugh. You could be anywhere in the house, and he would be either in his room or wheelin’ around outside and all of a sudden you hear, “Eh eh eh eh eh.” Who knows what he was laughing about but you knew whatever it was, it was funny. I’ve never heard a laugh like that and I will forever hear it in my head as well as all of you now have it running through yours.
Jaclyn and I never missed the opportunity to hop on the back of his wheelchair for a ride, and we would race the short distance from Holy Rosary to him when we were let out of school to get the first ride. Jaclyn usually won…she ran faster than me. I would patiently wait for them to return, Jaclyn would hop off, and I would hop on and off we went. I would still hop on for a ride to this day; if I could, they were fun! Especially when he got his new chair…that meant we could go faster!
I also have my uncle to thank for my first exposure to Pink Floyd. Although, when I was younger, I didn’t quite grasp the greatness of Pink Floyd, but as I got older and started to enjoy that era of music, I thought to myself, “Alright Dave, I get it.” So, I thank him.
I thank him for listening when I needed to talk, and I thank him for talking when I needed to listen. I thank him for letting me sleep on his couch and stay up past my bedtime to watch T.V. with him when I was younger, even when he accused me of snoring in the morning, and my retort would be, “No, no that was you.” I wish I could tell you about every memory I have that included Dave, but I’m pretty sure everyone has a pretty good idea of where I’m coming from. Dave, you meant so much to me, and you’ll always be in my heart. Pink Floyd said it best, and I say it to you, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
I love you.
© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019