If you are new to this blog – book Viking Funeral, the story of my late brother Dave Linane’s life and how we celebrated his departure, please consider checking out the link About Dave from the menu. This blog is his biography, a result of his failed autobiography, failed by dying before it was really started. To start from the beginning scroll to down to the bottom.
I appreciate every read, every comment, every like. All of you are helping me heal. If you have found me through our common shared denominator, grief, I hope you will consider sharing about your loved ones, either for yourself privately or with me. All of this has helped me so much and talking to all of you about your loved ones has helped me more than you know. XO M
Bruce came over to our house to be interviewed for the book. I loved hearing every hilarious story and poignant observations that he shared with me that afternoon. He is, as previously described, very animated. After the fun story of the secret entrance to the hospital, he excitedly told me about his first conversation with Dave after his trach was removed from his throat. Dave shared pretty excitedly, “You know I died, right?” Bruce, at all of 18 years of age, had never heard of such a thing and definitely was interested in knowing more.
Dave explained that he spent his time in the ICU out of his body, watching everything that was happening to him. He could see his body below him, hooked up to several machines. He saw my parents suffering in despair next to him. He tried to comfort them but couldn’t communicate with them directly and yet felt a sense of ease with the entire situation, knowing somehow that everything was going to be ok. Dave didn’t tell him about the dream of meeting the beautiful black woman he knew to be God or being told he had to go back. But he spoke in great detail about being outside his body.
I had never heard of any out of body experience that Dave had. I found it to be an unexpected and unusual addition to my Dave story archive. I did not interpret this as dying so much as the experience of meeting the Goddess. I told Bruce about that experience, to which he said in a satisfying tone, “Huh.”
He continued further that direction. On a subsequent trip that he, Brian and another friend Greg took to Europe in their late teens, early twenties, he met a young woman from California whose father had written a book about near-death experiences. Apparently, it was a huge bestseller back in the 70s. She and Bruce connected over this riveting topic in a bar (taxi, her place) somewhere in Europe, and their interest held long into the next morning.
Many, many months later, Bruce came home from work to find a message that a girl from Rialto, a neighboring city to San Bernardino had called, she was visiting family. The message didn’t mean anything to him. He called the number and was happy to find it was the gal from Europe, from Sacramento. They made plans to get together, which included her being introduced to Dave.
She clicked with Dave immediately, and the three spent the better part of an afternoon chatting about Dave’s experience, her dad’s book, and other random things that young people might talk about for hours. Later she sent Dave a copy of the book.
Bruce remembered seeing the book in Dave’s room forever on the bookshelf. Learning of the existence of this book, of course, sent me on a mission to find it. I didn’t remember dusting it, one of my few jobs in the house. The book had been a hot read, frequently loaned out, and likely had not found its way back. I couldn’t find it at my mom’s or a reprint on Amazon and subsequently read a few of the books I could find online. Interesting reading. Still, nothing that I can explain away or pretend to understand. I am going to just add them to the “part of the permanent record” of the story for accuracy.
Our conversations that afternoon were all over the place. Decades of friendship is hard to cover in an afternoon. I had forgotten about that trip those guys took to Europe that we all thought was such a cool and adventurous thing to do. I wondered how they knew Greg because I didn’t remember him from Dave’s high school crowd. I knew him in name only. Bruce outlined the order by which they came to be friends. Greg had been his best friend and neighbor growing up but moved to Riverside before starting high school. Bruce always included Greg in his blended group of friends from high school. A subset of this group, including Bruce, Dave, Greg, and a few others, had worked winters at Snow Valley, a ski resort located about 40 minutes up the highway in the San Bernardino mountains. Bruce’s dad would buy a case of beer and allow the boys to use his camper and drink for the weekend.
I looked at Bruce wide-eyed, even though I knew what his response was going to be, “It was a different time.” He continued to describe some of the shit jobs they did, the worst being making snow at night in the freezing cold. “At night, we got in our sleeping bags and started drinking beer to get warm. We had to layer our legs over each other to fit in like a puzzle. One time your brother threw up the largest amount of puke I have ever seen in my life. He was a big, lumbering guy. We were impressed by how fast he was able to move, being trapped inside a sleeping bag and all, and still make it from the furthest point forward in the camper over the top of all of us to the door. We all cheered that he made it to the parking lot. It would have sucked to have puke all over us all night. It froze overnight, right there outside the door, and was there in the morning when we got up. I will never forget that.” He was still quite impressed as he spoke. I just smiled and blinked as this lovely visual was equally hilariously and, unfortunately, added to my memory forever.
Circling us back to that trip to Europe, I asked him about his other world travels. Dave laughed so hard, telling me about Bruce’s trip to China. I asked Bruce to tell me first hand. He affirmed he had been bitten by the travel bug from that European trip and has been all over the world since. He and Dave talked before he headed to China, he told Dave he was going to eat and drink EVERYTHING because that is how you are supposed to explore any new place, through the food and drink. Dave had seen a show that featured something called Snake Wine that sounded intriguing to him, so he told Bruce about it. Bruce was then determined to seek out this Snake Wine.
One night as he and his travel group was entering a restaurant, he passed a street vendor selling what appeared to be weird drinks based on the creepy things floating in each glass container. He separated himself from the group to go check it out because he had to try everything. He said hello to the vendor who, to his surprise, spoke some English and responded with “Hello, would you like to try?” as he waved his hand to everything in the containers. “You have any Snake Wine?” “I do, but you don’t want, too strong for you. You have Snake Wine; you shit three days.” Bruce thanked him for the hot tip and went back to join his travel group in the restaurant. I laughed when Dave told me and again from the horse’s mouth. My takeaway, certain things are not exotic, just wrong to consume.
Long after Bruce married, with life, children, and responsibilities beyond their younger days of partying every weekend, I remember seeing Bruce pulled up in his work truck outside talking to Dave in the afternoon. He went on, “My bank was right around the corner from your house. After I deposited my paycheck, I would stop by to shoot the shit with Dave for a bit just about every week.” He, too, lived on 25th street just a few blocks beyond Brian’s house west of us. It was their regular pattern of an easy drive-by check-in.
As it happens, weeks or longer might go by between these simple “drive-bys.” Dave teased Bruce on one occasion with a “Hey, where you been?” Bruce pointed out that he [Dave] COULD stop by to visit him some time. Dave laughed and agreed that he certainly could. Within the next week, Bruce was backing his work truck into his driveway and was startled when he looked into his mirror by rote habit and saw Dave sitting in his wheelchair at the back of his driveway and shouted: “Holy shit man, I could have run over you!” Dave just laughed, “Oh, come on…I would not have just sat here and let you run me over! I would have moved!” When I think of that night that he had good enough reflexes as a drunk paralyzed guy to avoid being run over by the proverbial running of the bulls on that football field, I have to agree with Dave. He would have moved.
In my many conversations with Dave’s friend Barbara, she shared a moving example of Dave’s friendship with Bruce that made me adore all of these people that much more.
Back when Barb still lived on our street, she pulled in her driveway late one afternoon to find Bruce knocking on her door, demonstrably upset about something. She knew Bruce through Dave, but he had never been to her house. She parked and approached him with concern. He blurted out, “I was looking for Dave, he wasn’t home, and I really need to talk to him! I thought he might be here. My daughter has cancer!”
Barbara was absorbing his words as my dad and Dave came around the corner in Dave’s van. Barbara spotted them immediately and took off running from her porch to the middle of the street after them, waving her arms, shouting to get their attention. My dad saw her in his mirror and stopped. She ran up to his window and said, “Bruce’s daughter has cancer!!! He needs to talk to Dave!” My dad jammed the van in reverse, backed up, and parked in front of Barb’s house. He jumped out of the van and instinctively ran to Bruce on the porch. As my dad reached to hug him, Bruce collapsed into my dad’s arms, sobbing.
When Bruce caught his balance from the weight of this bad news fully hitting him, the three of them headed to the van to talk to Dave. Bruce told them all the extent of the grim news that he knew so far. They thought maybe Adrienne had the flu or mono. She came home from San Jose State to see a doctor. Everything developed very quickly from the moment she first felt exhausted to diagnosis were within days. Barbara loved my dad’s wide open compassion for Bruce. She understood more about who both my dad and Dave were from that demonstration of vulnerable love shared between these men. I already loved all the people in this scenario and loved them more, learning one more beautiful story of them.
Bruce and I talked for hours and laughed and laughed. Bruce was so proud of Dave. As I walked him to his truck, he said, “I mean, look, we all worked hard and had successful careers respectively, but he is the only one of us who graduated college…and in a wheelchair!!
We talked standing by his vehicle for another half hour. “You know, he really helped me when I was going through my surprise divorce. I mean, I stopped by all the time before my divorce, but then Adrienne got cancer and died in the middle of all that. It was such a hard time; I was so angry. Dave would listen to me through that whole mess, all of it. He would always try to get me to let it go. One time I asked him if he was angry at the guy who tackled him that day on the football field? Without skipping a beat, he answered, ‘Absolutely not! It was just a freak accident; I let that shit go right away, I don’t have time to hold on to that shit and neither do you!'”
I hugged him, partly because he needed one after having shared that last bit. I cannot begin to imagine losing my child, my heart was beginning to crack at that point, and partly because we were close to saying goodbye. I asked over his shoulder as we were still hugging, “It’s been a while. You let that shit go yet?” We let go of the hug; he quickly responded, emphatically, “OH, HELL NO!” We both laughed at his enthusiastic response and how ridiculously painful life can be to the point of the only logical response is to laugh. I hugged him again and recommended, “Please consider just THINKING about letting that shit go one day soon. It is hurting you to hold on to it. He nodded in acknowledgment, smiled his big smile, walked around his truck, and got in.
© Mardi Linane Copyright 2020