Rancho Los Amigos 1974-75

Unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down for previous chapters. Thank you all for reading this far, for all your comments, and for letting me drop all these words on the world of you. XO M

At some point about a year after being in the hospital, Dave had made as much of a recovery as he was going to. Staying in the hospital was not what he needed. It was decided that he would go to another facility for disabled individuals, Rancho Los Amigos, in Downey, California. He was there for rehab, to learn how to live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, a “quad,” a completely paralyzed man. It was at this place that he was fitted for his first electric wheelchair and learned to use it with his mouth operated controls. This facility supports those with life-changing disabilities, so I am sure they serve people beyond spinal injuries, but I don’t recall anyone walking around.

He was there for months and eventually began coming home on the weekends. I am sure these weekends were preparing my parents to care for him more than anything. I rode with my parents to pick him up for the weekend. There was what felt like to my 8-year-old self at that time, a lot of intense energy in this place, especially compared to the oppressive silence of Wing 700 at SBCH. You had to pay attention to what could have been a freight train of mass flying one way or the other, paraplegics who could use their arms, were racing each other in traditional wheelchairs down long hallways, shouting competitive jabs at each other laughing as they wheeled themselves down the hall neck-and-neck at breakneck speeds if I dare say. Who would have thought those words would be put to use in this way before…but I witnessed it, and it was fine. It felt like a frat house, minus the booze and chicks. No one chose to be a member, but the spirit of the place was pretty pleasantly wild.

He eventually transitioned to being at home full time with my parents caring for his every physical need. Of course, everyone else, family or friend(s) helped out with simple things like feeding him, filling his water thermos, holding the phone to his ear while he talked, scratching an itch, wiping his eyes with a cloth, turning on the radio, putting on a record, or changing the channel on the TV way before the days of remote controls. We didn’t usually bathe him, dress him, or put him in his wheelchair, but on rare occasions we did. Our parents carried out that more personal care. He didn’t get up in his wheelchair every day, but he had a sponge bath and a change of sheets on his bed every day. My parent’s personal care for him kept him bedsore free for the entire time they cared for him, which was more than 35 years. For those who understand the nature of bedsores and paralyzed people, this is a big deal…no bedsores, 35 years. By comparison, Christopher Reeves reportedly suffered with bedsores in his brief life following his accident… plenty of money, just not the right care. That is how well cared for Dave was. When Dave heard about “Superman” having bedsores, he tried to figure out how to get in touch with him or his people to shed some light on how to avoid bedsores but didn’t get through. By the way, the secret is understanding moisture and friction are what cause bedsores. My parents used a combination of lambs wool and lots of baby powder to wick away moisture from his body.

His friends continued to visit him daily when he returned home. Our house swelled on the weekends into THE party house. There was always beer and music. There were usually 20-30 people every Friday and Saturday night. Romances budded. Poker games were hosted. There was so much beer and always great music.

I loved hearing the guys sing the lyrics to Shattered by the Rolling Stones… they mumbled through most of the complicated early rap-like verses but always managed to shout ‘and sex and sex and sex and sex and look at me….I’m in tatters! Shadobee, I’m shattered, what ya say? Shadobee, I’m shattered.” Or another favorite of theirs (and mine) lyrics from Miss You, also by the Stones. The Imaginary Band as they, his friends referred to themselves, belted out the chorus “Who who ooo ooo oo oo, who ooo ooo oo oooo oo oo, Lord I miss you!!” In sloppy drunken harmony.

Saturday mornings, it was my job to empty the trash. I mentioned previously my five-minute job that I managed to take all day to complete, was to empty all the trash cans in the house. Sunday I also emptied his trash can again. He had a large metal trashcan that was designed to look like a Coors Beer Can. It is a good thing it was metal, and it was a good thing it didn’t leak. His trash can was always very heavy with stinky, leaking the dregs of those beer bottles. It was an expected outcome of so much fun. Our house was healing. I was so happy to once again live in a house full of laughter, actually, more laughter than ever.

Annie Stubbs came by my parents’ house to visit with Dave too, she called to check-in on him every now and then. She sent him a card on his birthday with $5, forever. They had such a sweet appreciation for each other, it was lovely to witness. I would sometimes answer the phone to Annie asking to speak to David. In the early years, I would hold the phone up to Dave’s ear while he spoke to her. His excited to hear from her side of the conversation would sound something like this, “I’m just FIIIIINE Annie! How are YOU? Oh, ya, I can’t complain either. I’m just layin’ around (giggles at his joke about himself) watchin’ the boob tube. What’s new with YOOOU? That sounds nice. (PAUSE) Oh, that is so very kind of you to check on me, thank you so much, Annie, Ok, thank you again, Byyyyye.” You could hear the smile and appreciation in his tone as he spoke to her. I just loved hearing my brother talking to this sweet little old lady.

My parents had a den upstairs where they retired after dinner to watch television. When Dave first came home, they, my dad, had to go downstairs to answer the door every evening to let the first person who arrived in. From that point on, whoever was in Dave’s room would answer the door for the rest of the evening.

Over a very short period, my parents had extra keys made so they would not have to go all the way downstairs to answer. I have no idea how many keys floated out and about among his friends. I had no idea of this brilliant tactic until many years later when Brian let himself in the front door ahead of me with a key from his key ring as we were both heading in the door. I remarked, “Oh, you have a key? ” He said with an obvious tone that conveyed, Of course, I’ve got a key when he said: “Uh, I’ve had it for… decades.” I loved finding that out. I told Dave about it later, and he had the same tone of duh, “Many keys have been handed out.” Made sense. My parents really were smart. This was the extra sandwiches make life easier logic in full force…but morphed into house keys.

After Dave left the building, it was suggested that my mom really consider changing the locks and she did so making all those keys obsolete. Brian was given a new key. My son has a key. I don’t think I have a key.

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1973-74 Wing 700

Raw, unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to read previous chapters. Thank you all for your love and support. I love and adore you all. XO M

Back at the hospital, After Dave was stabilized, he was moved from the Intensive Care Unit to Wing 700. He was the shining star of the hospital. Everyone loved him because he was pret-TEE lovable. He had a great attitude and faced every day the best he could. He didn’t bitch about anything. He had so many friends come to visit him every day that even in the days of stupid and strict Visitor Rules, the staff moved his room closest to the entrance in the wing. They advised his friends to just tap their keys on the glass doors so they would be heard…someone would let them in whatever time they came.

And they came. Every day, every evening, someone or more than one person was visiting with Dave. On the weekends thirty or more people would be in his room with the door closed and his brand-new swank stereo system cranking some classic Rock. They pulled pranks on the staff with fake spilled beer cans and fake barf or fake dog poop here and there. None of the staff ever complained. They seemed to appreciate the dedicated friendship they witnessed in that room for that lovely young man. They knew he was special, that his circumstance sucked and they took good care of him. He met people in the hospital both staff and patients who became part of his life forever.

One patient, Vince who had ended up partially paralyzed due to a suicide attempt was so despondent from surviving his suicide attempt, then waking up paralyzed on top of whatever drove him to try to take his life in the first place, I can’t even imagine the pain of all of this. The staff thought they should connect him somehow with Dave. They asked Dave if he would share a room for a brief period with Vince to help him come around. Dave agreed.

They shared a room, and Vince benefitted from Dave’s amazing spirit and all the kind young people who came to visit who completely brought Vince into the fold of their collective friendship. There were whoopee cushions, fake turds placed tastefully here and there, fun artwork taped to the walls, along with Dave, his people, and the music and laughter. I remember coming across a photo of the two of them in their room showing off wildly colorful (hideous) silly socks with individual toes that my mom’s sister, my Aunt Francie had bought for them, they were both utterly and completely cracking up. I loved seeing their laughter immortalized on film. Vince had a great experience being with Dave, and he did find his way out of his depression. They were friends from that point on which is how every friendship with Dave came about, introduction, lifelong connection. Vince had full use of his hands. Years later, he would stop by my parent’s house to visit with Dave. He drove with a specially designed van which I thought was the coolest thing…way cooler than any James Bond gadget at that time. I just loved to hear them laugh. Vince was Dave’s first official foray into talking someone off the ledge, professional counseling…he just didn’t recognize it as his life’s calling at the time.

The hospital staff bonded with Dave. He was such a gracious and beautiful being exuding such humanity, to begin with, but was so appreciative and respectful to them for their care.

One nurse must have spoken about Dave to a family member who thought he sounded so interesting that she wanted to meet him. That is how Annie Stubbs met Dave. She was an older African-American woman who would bake something for him and come to visit him in her Sunday best, just to check on him. It was so touching that this older woman was compelled to connect to this random paralyzed 18-year-old kid in the hospital and for the rest of his life. She was as beautiful a human as he was so it really makes perfect sense when you understand the birds of a feather principle retroactively and can clearly identify all the birds and feathers that surrounded, and filled his entire life.

Genetics (About My Mom) Part 3

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down for previous chapters.

My mom was the youngest of nine children. Unlike my dad, she came from a house of plenty. Plenty of food and even more joking and laughter. She grew up eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with sterling silverware on fine china with tablecloths and linen napkins. Her china and silver patterns were picked out for her when she was born. Her family had a live-in cook, maid, and nanny.

Marrying my dad, she left all that pampering behind, rolled up her sleeves and learned to do all things domestic: cook, clean, care for children, referee, separate the proverbial dog and catfights, feed the actual dog and cat, discipline, shuttle, shop, pay bills, maintain a full house as detailed further below.

She ran our house like a military ship. You have to be efficient when you have a big family, or you might die under an enormous pile of dirty clothes, trash or worse, dog doo. We had a predictable, jam-packed life with the many moving parts that come with five kids, 15 first cousins (just on my mom’s side), ailing grandparents, their large group of friends from high school and their growing families, lots of friends from school and our neighborhood: baseball, basketball, football and volleyball games, paying the bills, “put the cat out,” Cub Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, softball, Church and Sunday dinners with extended family, guitar lessons, gymnastics, family (including cousins) vacations, “Boys! get off the roof,” “Boys! keep your hands to yourself,” piano lessons, “Boys! don’t throw things in the house,” Holidays, “Damn It Boys! I told you a window would get broken!” hosting slumber parties for wild screaming middle school girls, “Boys! keep your hands off the walls,” birthday celebrations (roughly every two weeks someone in our extended family had a birthday that we celebrated), “Boys! I said keep your hands to yourself,” laundry, grocery shopping, making lunches, friends over for dinner, “Keep your swimsuit top ON,” baseball in the street, a family member here and there living with us, “Did anyone let the cat in?” broken window repairs, “Take it upstairs with you” stitches and broken bones, parties sanctioned and secret while they were out of town, dentist appointments for five, pets and vets, orthodontist, parent-teacher conferences, dusting and vacuuming and mountains of dishes and everything in between that is not directly outlined above.

There was always enough mayonnaise, Roman Meal bread, margarine (didn’t everyone eat margarine back then?), Skippy Peanut Butter (Chunky), toilet paper, soap, towels and clean clothes. It takes a LOT of organization and effort to keep everything in stock and running smoothly. So yes, my dad worked long hard hours in retail management but look at my mom’s work life seven days a week and she had to deal with all of us too! Lucky him!

When I say our house was like a military ship, I mean it was efficient. It was always tidy. You would never know how many people lived in their house because my mom never allowed us to drop our junk by the front door. We were not allowed to slow down until we dumped our stuff upstairs in our rooms. And if there was anything sitting on the stairs like clean towels or toilet paper we had to take that up with us because we were “going that way anyway.” The house was always clean because she wanted it that way and for a brief window of time, she had an army of five children to dust, vacuum and clean every Saturday. She also cleaned the two bathrooms EVERY day. You HAVE to do so when you have 3-5 males on the premises.

Our mom figured out how to run this organization very efficiently, and she, well they both had expectations. My mom tried to raise us to be proper and fancy, we all know how to set a table and what fork and spoon to use but have you heard my language? For the record, I did not learn my varsity level cursing habits at home. The general house rules were nothing unrealistic. “Pick up after yourself. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Those kind of things. Pretty simple rules really. The things you need to be able to relate to people in the real world.

Like all of America at that time we too had to be home by the universal time that the street lights come on. We were expected to be present at dinner. General good hygiene was also expected, “Wash your hands before dinner.” As previously mentioned, Strict rules were imposed at the dinner table including properly asking for things to be passed to you at the table “Please pass the (fill in the blank)?” And “Thank you.” So while all the rules and maintenance of life stuff sounds stiff and uninteresting, for clarification she was consistent, you have to be with this sort of job but always quick to laugh.

My mom was the infrastructure of everything related to general house operations. Her supportive planning and steady execution of everything in every area of our lives gave all of us the platform to succeed at home and out in the world. I forgot to mention picking up dry cleaning above, my dad’s professional wardrobe was meticulously cared for.

My mom made everything about dinner happen as was common back in time. After my dad’s last story, my mom coordinated having us clear the dishes away. One of the older kids had an assigned night to do the dishes. This is when the majority of any bitching by the children about anything in our house began…regarding whose night it was to do the dishes, followed by trade negotiations. “If you do the dishes tonight, I will do them tomorrow.” I was too young when the house was so full to ever be in the dishwashing bitching, negotiation and rotation schedule. I just remember the arguments that my parents let resolve themselves about whose night it was. Someone WAS going to do those dishes.

I know I used the word military previously, but our home, the home my mom created was not militant. It was a vibrant, loving home with plenty of giggling and running around happening as well. The very beautiful 1920s vintage historic Spanish style home was constantly teeming with children. People were always curious about what the house looked like inside. Once inside they wanted to stay not because it was beautiful, but it was a fun place to be.

Any day of the week there was always at least one extra kid in the house, either a friend or a cousin or two or all the above. It was not uncommon to have a friend join us for dinner on a school night, Brian comes to mind, or anyone else who happened to stop by close to dinner time. Our dining room table when expanded could seat 18 but also converted to a card or ping pong table with the addition of a net attached to the table in the center with the turn of a wingnut screw. There was always room for an extra person or ping pong around the world silliness.

Someone was frequently hitting a tennis ball up against the garage. The boys (and cousins) played catch across the street, not by playing on the other side of the street, by standing one on either side of the street, throwing the ball across the street and over cars as they drove by. When someone missed their catch on our side, the baseball hit the garage door with a loud bang. My mom rolled with all of it.

On occasion, our house was a haven for a runaway child who was at odds with their parents for a day or two. Slumber parties were wild but rare and usually saved for two special occasions a year, birthday parties for the older girls. Our parents’ friends often visited. Usually with their children which meant all sorts of wild play, games, hide-and-seek both inside and outside of the house. My mom was perpetually putting a pot of coffee on because there were always people stopping by. But given everything she had to accomplish in a day she had to have needed that coffee too. I remember she drank coffee up until maybe 8 o’clock at night. Now she has one cup in the morning, that is it.

Our parents were booster club members for everything. But really, mom’s ARE the booster club, working all those volunteer hours in the snack bar or hosting the fundraiser du jour. We attended all the many sporting events by loading up our wood-paneled station wagon, the woody with ice chests, bleacher pads, and blankets. You need a large vehicle when you are a family of seven.

We were always attending some sporting event somewhere. The boys and our cousins played Little League on city teams like boys all across America, and we all played sports organized by our Catholic school too. Three of my siblings were in high school at the same time. Dave was a senior, Linda a Junior and Scott a freshman. Each played a sport or two. Dave’s football activities in high school were the most storied because an entire community comes out to watch football and his sport was by far the most talked about in our house. Boys sports overshadowed girls sports by far back then.

His storied time on the field was not exaggerated. He played center. He was wide and solid from the shoulders down. He was the perfect wall of muscle to put in front of a quarterback. He made the varsity team his sophomore year, was named the All-star athlete for the region that year and was team captain his senior year. No one sacked the San Bernardino High School quarterback, and subsequently, the team always did very well. He also played Baseball, Water Polo, Wrestled and was on the Track team (shot put). There was a snack bar at the football games and our mom, ever carrying out her momly duties definitely had her time in the snack bar pit.

I was very little and bored to death at most events, but I liked going to high school football games because they were at night and I got to stay up later than normal. I would have been between 2-6 and remember climbing the underside of the bleachers like a jungle gym, parents allowed us to be out of their site back then. I could hear my mom’s familiar cute outbursts of laughter rise above the mixed noise of the crowd now and then and stopped momentarily when I heard announcements over the PA. “And Linane sacked the quarterback.” “And Linane blocks the kick.” And Linane-(fill in the blank).” It felt so official because the announcer sounded like someone from T.V. I was less than five…don’t judge. All I could tell is that it sounded like my brother was all over the field saving the day again like last week and the week before that. That was my first awareness of feeling pride, I was proud to hear his name, our shared imprinted name over and over.

Some of my mom’s more brilliant moves:

Our house was large with five bedrooms and all the other typical rooms you expect in a house, living room, dining room, but we also had a breakfast nook and a loft area that was a den. I know it sounds fancy but we just happened to live in an older home that had such rooms.

Every Saturday, my mom employed her army of five to clean the house from top to bottom, and we did. The older kids vacuumed, moved furniture around, mopped. I had the pint-sized task of dusting a certain room usually mine because there wasn’t much I could break or if I did break something it would be my own. When I was older, I emptied the trash throughout the house. The army helped keep the house clean and taught us all how to care for our things and ultimately, a home.

My job of trash lady, of course, took me ALL day Saturday. A job that probably should have taken about 10 minutes tops. I fully employed whatever that law is, now I have to look it up, Parkinson’s law (I swear it is a thing) states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. I wasn’t wise enough yet to have figured out that if I did my job quickly I would be given another task, I simply was pouting about what I deemed as an awful task that a princess such as myself should not have to do and I just procrastinated all day rather than just be done with it. No one told me I was a princess, trust me, I was more likely referred to as a pill because of my incessant inquisitive nature. I just deduced I was from all the princess books I had read and because we lived in a beautiful home that looked a little bit like a castle. I know, I’m ridiculous. My mom and husband both gave me the same book one year, the Princess and the Pea, my favorite from childhood and somewhat autobiographical. Ok, maybe I still refer to myself as the princess and the pea when it comes to the desire for creature comforts.

With a live-in grandparent or aged uncle here and there from my mom’s side of the family, yes, she cared for her mother and a few siblings too. So, yes with the influx of ailing adults the kids had to share a room. My mom had us change rooms every six months.

All rooms were not created equal which meant one, two or three people to a room or the very lusted after commodity among children…the one small room in the house, a room of one’s own. My mom’s plan of everyone changing rooms every six months meant no one had to endure an unpleasant dreaded paring with a sibling that long and someone would get the coveted room of their own, at least for six months. In this transition, we had to move all of our furniture out of our room, go through all of our clothes and toys and get rid of things we no longer used. It was brilliant, for deep cleaning, pairing down like you need to do to maintain control of the volume of crap five children can amass and keep the kids from complaining about the unfairness of life with “fill in the blank” having the best room to themselves.

Our vacations were typically a week beach house rental in Newport Beach in Southern California. Not a long drive, not an extravagant expense and cheap entertainment with the ocean keeping us busy and wearing us out all day. My favorite bit of brilliance, we were allowed to bring a friend on vacation with us. That friend was almost always a cousin of similar age. The woody somehow fit loads of people, before seatbelts of course. In retrospect, after having my one and only child, I asked my mom what in the hell she was thinking taking 10 children on vacation. She responded, “Oh honey, it was so much easier to make 10 sandwiches than it was to listen to five children bitch about being bored.” Seriously, brilliant!

Viking Funeral – We Burned Shit

This is an unvarnished excerpt (13) from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, to read previous posts scroll down. Love and appreciate your comments, stories of your loved ones, likes and shares here or on Facebook. All of you are helping me heal, more than you know!! So many insights are coming to me through conversations with people who knew Dave or knew a coach or knew someone who knew Dave. I have theorized that this is growing into a memoir of a community, thank you all so much. The more comments and likes, more people will have the chance to see or read based on FB algorithms. 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:

Hello,

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

Mary Ann

An Email from a friend of Dave’s who I did not know:

James M

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.

James Mo

Email from a neighbor who worked at Cal State San Bernardino

Dear Mardi,

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.

Regards,
jpv

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,

Jimmy

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

Bad News Calling…

Part 8 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find the previous posts.

I didn’t want to call anyone. I looked around for the adult in the room or on the patio, someone else, anyone else I could possibly pass this job on to but I was alone on the patio. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I was the adult in the room. Great.

When our dad left the proverbial building, I told no one. Dave had been the someone else who made those type of calls to people who needed to be called previously on behalf of my mom. He was her oldest child, the oldest son. It seemed like his duty by the manner of succession. Yes, he was paralyzed, but he had a cell phone, a headset and he could talk to people. And he did.

I didn’t call anyone then. It was more than a year before I mentioned my dad’s death to anyone outside my daily nuclear life between home and work. I had to explain why I was not at work because–death. I tried really hard to avoid the topic at work, but at least a dozen or more of my coworkers gave me clippings of the press coverage of my dad, which I wrote. It forced me to acknowledge something had taken place. I didn’t like it. I have no idea why people gave these to me. Did they think I didn’t know he was dead? I mean he was my dad after all. Or maybe they thought I didn’t know when the memorial was taking place? They had to have known I wrote the piece for the newspaper; I was quoted throughout the article. This is a strange practice, and I do not recommend following it.

Needless to say, I did not tell my life-long friends who grew up on our street practically in our house. I didn’t tell my semi-lifelong friends who were collected along my way through adulthood. People found out by reading about it in the paper. I was surprised when some of my friends showed up at my dad’s memorial, they apparently still read the paper. I didn’t know I knew anyone who actually still read the paper. For my friends who lived outside the shadow of our local paper, or fall into the do not read the paper category which includes me, they didn’t find out until more than a year or years later.

In retrospect, it wasn’t any easier later when they were expecting a normal type of catch up conversation, “How’ve you been?” They didn’t expect that I hadn’t told them that level of bad news. My friends loved my parents. How’re your mom and dad? My mom is ok, my dad, not so much. They then felt horrible for not knowing. I felt retroactively bad for creating a moment where they felt disconnected from my interior life like a friendship demotion or something. It wasn’t. I am an introvert by nature almost reclusive. Things like this put me deep under a rock. I don’t like continuing the unpleasant energy of such a time in life. It sucked and I hated ALL of it.

I could only think of three people who needed to be called right away. No one likes bad news, and as I mentioned before, people don’t know what to do with death as it is. I don’t, and I’m writing a book about it. Well, the entire book isn’t about death, only this part of the book.

We all adored our Viking Warrior brother in and for myriad different reasons. Dave loved us all fiercely but in a non-violent, wholly with every fiber of his being sort of fiercely. We were lucky to be loved by him. Anyone was lucky to be loved by him. Living with him with the interior view of a nuclear family member was definitely an honored place to be. His life was hard, incredibly so, but he laughed through it with grace and hot sauce and made us all laugh with him. Having to tell anyone he was gone with less than a moment’s notice was pretty stunning news to deliver. He was in his fifties, so, relatively young by human standards and he was gone, between coffee and toast, just like that.

There are five of us. There were five of us. Five children. Dave was connected to each of us very differently. Dave and Linda grew up almost Irish twins and had many childhood adventures. I predominantly heard about THE pre-school golf club concussion incident, bee stings and the revenge of THE golf club concussion with a pretend dental appointment and a mouth full of dirt because he deserved it reasons. Dave was three years older than Scott. They were in an almost constant state of wrestling from very early on. Anything with a ball, a pool, wrestling or broken windows usually included Scott, our cousins Jim and John who were everpresent in our house growing up, against Dave, the giant. Dave and Anne are six years apart, and the most alike, level headed, dot every i cross every t, always do the right thing, great listener, show up on time, lead by example, help you move sort of people. I am the youngest, eleven years younger than Dave. We were vastly different. I am writing a book about him so I will let my relationship with him unfold with the pages.

Linda obviously was part of the news, and I am pretty sure she called Scott. My sister Anne who lived on the east coast at that time was my first call. She answered, “Hey, you.” I didn’t think, I just summarized my mom’s words by using even fewer words than she, I prefaced that I was calling with bad news and then I just blurted it out. “Dave died.” Her one-word reaction was a very loud “WHAT?” in obvious surprised disbelief given the context of his healthy forever.

She reacted, it seemed exactly like I did. She didn’t ask what happened. She quickly collected her thoughts and asked how our mom was. As much as it is impossible to speak for anyone in this circumstance I did anyway. I said, “She seems OK.” No one lived with the burden of the worry of Dave’s care and future more than our mom. She suffered his pain even though he didn’t reveal any. She knew as only a mom could know. She worried as only a mom could or world worry.

I felt Anne thinking all of my unspoken thoughts, we were relieved for her. We were relieved for both Dave being able to fly away from that stupid body and for my mom being released of her worry of What is going to happen to Dave if something happens to me? The entire conversation contained very few words but with the obvious understanding that we would see each other soon, very soon.

I always ask people if they can take a call when I contact them. You never know what people are in the middle of doing when you call them. Almost anything can be picked up later if it’s not a good time. I learned an important lesson that day. I didn’t think to suggest that she sit down before I continued with the bad fucking news. Please make a note of this-my lesson to you.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

***

If you enjoyed this post please click the like button below or share. I would love to hear your memories of Dave if you are among those who knew him or I would love to hear stories of your experiences with your lost loved ones. XO M

Part 2 Too Soon?

Post 7.

If you are new to this blog, scroll down to post 1 to start at the beginning. XO M

Unvarnished excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral…

***

Too soon?

As polite as the crew was, they were just strangers on our patio to me. While I appreciated everything about them, their response, what they do, I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want to be here, be awake or be alive at that moment. I wished I could go back to sleep and wake up having forgotten all of this intense dream.

I turned away from the crew and headed up the wheelchair ramp into the back door. My eyes had to adjust from the pleasant subdued morning light on the patio as I walked into the back hall of the house, then into Dave’s painfully bright room. The shades were all the way open on his large bedroom windows. The sun was pouring in most rudely imposing unwanted light. His former body lay flat in what I joked was his turbo electric home hospital bed. He looked…relaxed.

He lived with uncontrolled muscle spasms as a result of the paralyzing college football accident that broke his neck almost four decades ago. His damaged central nervous system behaved like a loose live wire. He jerked in response to being touched. His nerve signal messages were scrambled, misinterpreted and responded to protectively, innately as if he were being burned. This type of reaction was almost constant and permanent. One muscular response usually triggered another and often a full body muscle flexion reaction. Not always, but more often than not.

These muscle spasms required that he be stabilized in either of the two places he lived between, his turbo bed or his turbo electric wheelchair. He had to be tied into his electric bed. He had to be positioned a certain way, with a combination of slings and pillows to keep the level of spasms as low as possible. When he was in his wheelchair, he had to wear braces on his arms and legs. The braces helped him have fewer spasms. He had to sit with his legs straight out in front of him, having his legs bent like most of us sit would cause him to pass out from circulatory overload. If his legs weren’t straight, his spasms would cause him to slide right out of the wheelchair. In general, he appeared very stiff.

I had not seen him so relaxed, ever, well, ever since his accident, ever. He had no straps, no slings, no pillows, no braces on, the bed was flat, he was flat. I put my hand on his bare leg. He was still warm with the fiery energy of the life that just left. He didn’t flinch or move AT ALL. I knew he shouldn’t. Former reality had not completely recalculated the reality of the right now, and I anticipated the typical response, a reaction, that which depicts life. I thought with an irreverent tone to myself, Well… obviously, you cannot get more relaxed than dead. I couldn’t feel bad for thinking this because he would have laughed hard at that.

Then I panicked and wondered, “Oh God, does he know what I am thinking right now?” He loved funny stuff. Even slightly inappropriate, no, especially inappropriate “too soon?” funny stuff. I looked around for him in my thoughts for the shared acknowledgment of a VERY well placed, too soon? joke, but he was not there. I didn’t see or feel him. Damn it. He really loved good gallows humor that way. Like I said, we can’t control what pops in our heads. I kept my thoughts to myself.

Shock takes a while to percolate through the layers of the mass and obscure that comprises the human psyche, mind, and physical body. My mom and oldest sister Linda were wound up by their own coursing surges of adrenaline. This was not unexpected based on their experiences of the last hour. Everyone hugged. They recounted what happened, speaking a mile-a-minute. Still looking for him in my thoughts, I half-listened while standing next to him with my hand on his leg that still felt so alive other than the not moving because he was dead aspect. Really? Nothing dude? I know you hear this.

My mom didn’t blink as she recounted the details of her experience earlier that morning. Her eyes were fixed looking down and to her left. I watched her looking into that part of her brain where this memory will be stored forever. I could see everything she described playing on one screen in my mind on my left. All my other stupid, random and weird thoughts of the morning were impossibly layered on another screen on my right.

She had awakened him to let him know it was morning, that she would be back in to wash his face after having her coffee. He said “Ok.” This was their routine every morning; She initially woke him, then left his room to have her coffee and toast. The time in between would give him a chance to get himself waked-up before she returned. She would then proceed to get him ready to face the day; wash his face, brush his teeth, give him a sponge bath. All the braces mentioned above and a body brace would be put on, they would get him dressed, with the help of a friend and neighbor Denise. Her son Poncho would help put him into his electric wheelchair and ultimately Dave would head out the back door almost immediately when the weather was nice.

This was my parents’ routine every morning since Dave returned home from spending 18 months away, between the hospital and a rehabilitation center for paralyzed individuals roughly 38 years ago. He preferred to be up in his wheelchair as much as possible. Some days he did not get out of bed. It is hard on a paralyzed body to be in the same position for long periods of time. It is also hard work for the people moving him.

He weighed in at over 220 plus pounds dead weight before he was dead. The dead weight of a paralyzed individual is shockingly heavier than one thinks. This process and all of Dave’s care was very well coordinated, it had to be. My parents were very organized about everything but especially Dave’s care. After my dad passed away at 72 a few years prior, a series of people helped my mom. Denise and Poncho were the last people to help with Dave’s regular personal care. More on Denise and Poncho later.

Denise arrived about the time my mom had finished her coffee, as per usual. They entered the room to begin their routine as outlined above when they found Dave still asleep.

WAIT!

NOT asleep!

NOT conscious!

NOT breathing!

NOT ALIVE!

WHAT!!!!?

NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

LINDAAAAAA!!!!!

It had only been 10 minutes, 15 max since my mom had awakened him. My mom shouted for my sister Linda to come help. Shortly after my dad passed away, Linda came to live with my mom and Dave. Linda took over the recounting from here, she came in and immediately began C.P.R. She crossed her hands one over the other mocking the C.P.R. position as she described performing the chest compressions. She briefly motioned with one hand to the other side of the bed, explaining that Denise had been standing there, crying, while she continued pantomiming the chest compressions. She saw Dave, after just a few compressions standing beside his body. He told her “Let me go.” My mom, who saw nothing, was beside her saying, “Let him go.” Linda stopped the compression motion, her shoulders, arms lowered, as she described knowing he was gone.

Dave had been paralyzed when he was 18 and had lived as a healthy quadriplegic for almost 38 years with the dedicated care of our parents. That is a very long time to survive as a quadriplegic. He may be the longest surviving quadriplegic in the state of California. Many chronic illnesses usually plague those living in a paralyzed body; pneumonia, bed sores, strokes, renal infections, blood clots, blood pressure issues. Dave was lucky, he had always been so very healthy. It is possible that his muscle spasms that were a total pain in the ass also kept his blood flowing and muscles working rather than atrophying like most paralyzed individuals.

He hadn’t been sick. He along with Elvis, just “left the building.” Damn it, he would have really loved that joke too. After Linda’s account, my mom realized that he hadn’t asked her the time and must have died mid-sentence. “He always asks me ‘What time is it?’ when I wake him as I head to the kitchen for my coffee, and today he didn’t ask. He just said ‘OK.’ I thought that was strange as I opened the door to go out, but then I didn’t think anything more of it. And I just headed to the kitchen for my coffee.”

A Police officer entered the back hall into the house interrupting our conversation. As part of his official death report, he had already spoken with the fire personnel, he now had to observe their home, the scene surrounding Dave’s departure, and speak to my mom to understand what had taken place. All of which is standard procedure to determine there had been no foul play since Dave had not been in the presence of a doctor when he died.

I didn’t hear a word of how he began his interview with my mom. I did not want to listen to the story again. I headed out of Dave’s bright room back to the shimmering shade of the elm trees and relief of the patio. My mom asked me to call the people who needed to be called before she turned her attention to the officer.

I doubt they shared the part about Linda administering CPR until she saw Dave standing next to his body with the officer but thought it would make for a very interesting statement if she had. “Decedent’s sister administered life support until she saw decedent standing next to his dead body.” Dave would have laughed at that too. Not everyone is open to that sort of experience.

Later Linda talked about having a déjà vu experience from a dream she had about a year prior. She and Dave were on opposite sides of a pool. We do not have a pool by the way. He drove himself in the pool in his wheelchair and sank to do the bottom. Linda dove in to help him. When she was face to face with him, he shook his head and said underwater, “Let me go.” The feeling of the dream and the morning, his readiness were the same. I don’t know what to say about any of this because I am no expert on the afterlife, paranormal or whatever. I don’t think anyone really can. I will have to let you know when I get there myself and get back with you. Interesting, yes. I will leave it at that.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

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If you enjoyed this excerpt please click the LIKE star below. Love to hear your comments or experiences on this topic. XO M

Dave Linane’s Birthday March 13

Post 1.

In honor of Dave’s birthday, I am releasing this preface for the book. I hope you enjoy and join me as I unfold these unedited excerpts from this Viking Funeral…

Spoiler Alert: Our Hero does not make it out of this life alive

This isn’t one of those thinly veiled “BASED ON A TRUE STORY” stories that we recognize as cruel, manipulative Hollywood bullshit formulas that dictate when you laugh or cry based on music cues. There will be no explosions where our hero outruns the blast and fallout of concussive flame-y fury to fight another day. There are also not going to be any tense phone calls between the good guy with an Irish brogue hinting at “a particular set of skills,” and the bad guy, as awesome as THAT would be.

Now that you know what this biography is NOT, I can tell you what it IS. A story of one particularly pretty shitty day stalked by relentless love, friendship, laughter, celebration, and more laughter. You are going to love him, no doubt, even without my taking any poetic license to spice up the story for interest. But, I formally state, for the record, that our hero does not make it out of this life alive. There, Band-Aid ripped off. Truth in advertising and all, I mean FUNERAL is in the title, so it should be obvious someone is no longer mingling freely among us mere mortals.

There are billions of ways to die, and most of us don’t have a choice in that. But we do have a choice in how we live and how we celebrate a life well-lived when our loved ones move on. This book is about both of those things and everything large and small in the middle of those two things that make up an ordinary magical life.

Vikings burned their boats when they arrived on the beaches of lands they intended to conquer. Their strategy was to forge ahead or die trying. There was never any going back. Dave was a powerful athlete who dealt with his broken neck, the result of a college football accident, with dignity and grace. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there was no crying for himself in this life, he just rolled forward with purpose.

He was the original YES man. He was game to try anything and everything he could, from spicy food to adventures with a ride-or-die attitude, a huge smile and his infectious bark of a laugh. He applied that same energy when forging his radically altered life path and didn’t let bureaucracy, transportation, “sleet nor snow,” or steps get in his way. He found his true professional calling after a ridiculously uphill battle. I thought of this Viking Warrior description of him as I wrote his obituary tribute. He was too modest ever to have claimed ownership of such a bold title plus, as far as he knew, we weren’t of Scandinavian descent. It was an honorary title I bestowed upon him because I do not fear the Viking Semantics Police way over here in California.

It was the tradition at a Viking Funeral that gifts would be offered to accompany the warrior on his travels to the next world, Valhalla. The gifts and warrior’s earthly body would be burned and therein be transformed into the next world. Folklore has it that they were placed in a boat upon the ocean and lit on fire by flaming arrows and their ashes spread to the ends of the earth. But really, they were most often burned within the confines of a ship shaped monument of stone on land. Fire would transform them to Valhalla. The ashes would be spread to the ends of the earth by the wind.

The idea for our Viking Funeral grew from this posthumous Viking Warrior title. I wanted a celebration that represented him and his enormous spirit: Dave’s favorite food and booze followed by a bonfire after dusk with people sharing stories and we would let people put gifts in the fire by way of written notes to help transform Dave to modern day Valhalla.

In Dave’s early 20s our family home transformed every weekend into the hottest bar in town for Dave’s friends, occasionally a poker parlor; we hosted hundreds of BBQs, dinners, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, bridal and baby showers, four weddings and a funeral, our dad’s. This well-visited home for all the aforementioned celebrations would now host Dave’s Viking Funeral our best party ever.

I sent his tribute and invitation to the Viking Funeral to our local newspapers, the college where he worked (San Bernardino Valley College), the university where he attended undergrad and grad school (Cal State University San Bernardino), as well as anyone whose email address I had. Both the college and the university honored his passing with dedications to him on their website home pages, because he was very well-known at both campuses.

When our dad passed away, my two thousand-word-plus biography was printed about him in three regional papers–a completely cut and paste job. My dad had been a world-class athlete and home-town (Redlands) hero. My brother was even more well-known than my dad because of his accident and news coverage at that time, but the paper had changed ownership for what felt like the hundredth time, and no one in the now corporate conglomerate upper management at the paper knew anyone local, so no story was printed.

The newspapers that had been so vapidly eager to cover his tragic accident decades before, now wanted a ridiculous amount of money for an obituary paid upfront before they would consider running the tribute. We didn’t really care about a story, we just wanted people to know that he had “left the building” and to invite them to celebrate because we knew they would want to. I was very irritated. I joked that I would save money with the shortest obit ever: “Dave died, party at our house.” All the right people would know what that meant and where to go. I chose slightly more tasteful words, “David Linane passed away unexpectedly on July 10, 2011. A memorial will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the family home Saturday, July 16, 2011.” The newspaper charged more than $600 for this brief obit but didn’t run the tribute, which I might add, was beautifully written. Jerks.

I am literally stuck writing this “surprise” and epic failed autobiography against my will, since he woke up unexpectedly dead one morning before really getting it started. It isn’t the writing that is the stuck part. I, along with everyone who knew him, would much rather have more days on this earth with him, enough days for him to finish his autobiography as intended, or to hear him laugh, that barking seal of a laugh ONE MORE TIME.

Update: According to My Heritage DNA services, which was used by my husband and me on a curious whim driven by a deep discount, I discovered that I am 18% Scandinavian, which was a hilarious shock. Retroactively Official Viking Warrior!

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019