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!