Remembrance of David

Remembrance of David
David John Dix
1942 – 2011

He was there but not there. The first thing I saw when I walked into the large airplane hangar where the memorial service was held, was a arge photo of David looking straight into my eyes. It was a beautiful image. David’s quiet gaze was thoughtful and gentle, unsmiling with a hint of sadness in his eyes.

I noticed other photos of David – riding his Ducati motorcycle and sharing time with family, friends, and colleagues. Behind the photos his paintings were displayed on easels. As I walked along looking at the images, I saw the one I remembered. The intense blue sky with fluffy clouds lightly tinted with color, ocean waves that seemed to
move rhythmically across the canvas, and a single jet airplane flying through the sky.

The photos and paintings were overwhelming. I looked again at David’s face in the photo and felt a stab of loss. He should be here, smiling his slightly sideways grin, looking so happy to see me, and giving me a hug that said, “welcome my friend.”

The service was nicely done. The chaplain guided us through the eulogy, the lovely solo, the family members, friends, and co-workers sharing their stories. At times it was difficult for people to speak. There were pauses as they struggled to calm themselves and continue with their sharing. Some of the women spoke so softly they couldn’t be
heard, even with the microphone in front of them. The sons made us laugh despite our tears, as they told of their experiences with their father and David’s two ex-wives spoke of their enduring love for him.

Hearing their stories made me remember my own favorite time with David. My fiance and I visited David at his home together one sunny summer day. When we arrived at his house in the Portland suburb, his garage door was open. As he welcomed us into the garage, I felt I was entering a space transformed to suit a life and passion quite different
from my own. The large room was pristine, with white walls, and glistening cabinets and countertops. He explained that the floor had a special surface that made it better for his motorcycles. Several of the bikes stood waiting, like thoroughbred horses, glowing with energy, anticipating the moment they could race into the sunshine.

As David led us into his house, it was apparent that the pristine qualities of the garage continued into his living area. The house appeared ordinary from the outside, just a typical suburban home in the usual sort of well-cared-for neighborhood. Lawns neatly
manicured, families with kids and cars.

David’s favorite color combination of black, red, and white was the theme throughout the kitchen and living room. I was drawn to an area at one end of the living room where the surface of the floor seemed to be moving. I walked closer and saw bright orange fish swimming in crystal clear water. How amazing and how delightful. David had an
inside coy pool. The black marble of the pool edge felt cool as I rested my hand on it to get a better look at the fish spiraling through the water. Sunshine flecked the water and I felt a surge of longing that was bittersweet. Perhaps I was falling in love with the realization that the world held such a man. Although our paths crossed several times,
I would never know him deeply. It would have to be enough to know he was living his life, enjoying his passions.

We followed David upstairs and entered a room that was his painting studio. There were paintings on the wall and one he was working on. There it was, the airplane soaring across the water, seeming to float beyond the clouds. I was stunned once again. Here was another aspect of this man that reflected his search for beauty and excellence.
The painting was photographically realistic and exquisitely detailed. The waves, one of the most challenging natural aspects to render successfully, were perfect. I starred at the painting, not wanting to leave the room. I fully understood the investment of time and energy the images held.

David explained that he loved to paint and wished he had more time to devote to it. He agreed that painting was intense and meticulous work but extremely rewarding. We lingered a bit in the studio, looking at the other paintings. As we turned to go I saw the slight sadness in David’s eyes, despite his smile.

Soon we put on helmets and mounted our bikes for the ride ahead. When we rode our motorcycles that afternoon, I was a passenger with my fiance, David was on his Ducati, and another friend joined us. Gliding along quiet back roads in the rural area west of the city, angling through the curves, at times bending over the front of his bike,
David seemed completely at ease. I imagined that he piloted the magnificent jets he loved so much, the same way he guided his bike, with expertise and quiet confidence.

I enjoyed the ride and never felt unsafe, with my fiance. He was a careful and competent driver, but David had a connection with his motorcycle that was visible in the relaxed way he sat on the bike. Watching him ride was like witnessing a new hybrid of man and machine. In the end, of course, he was simply a man but that summer day I glimpsed an essence of the man, his passion for the best technology had to offer and his skill at using it for his enjoyment. That brilliant summer day was the only time I rode with David and visited his home.

As I sat in the hangar, I wrote a brief remembrance on the card provided by the family. We watched a video collage of photo images – David’s birthplace in England, his youth growing up in California, his wives, children, grandkids, motorcycle adventures, and flying career. As the years passed, David looked at the future through a steady gaze. His quiet nature seemed to be the central point of calm as family and friends surrounded him. He moved forward on his journey with a ready smile, taking others along his path with grace and gentleness.

The question that remained as a thread winding its way through the memorial service was, with all of these skills and passions, why did he take his own life? No one mentioned it and it was not openly discussed. During the reception, I spoke with a mutual friend who said David appeared depressed when they had dinner a couple of months previously but didn’t want to share more. My fiance told me David had
broken up with his longtime girlfriend six months earlier and he had been in the hospital for several days due to a sinus infection. There was no easy answer and in the end it really didn’t matter. Taking his own life was a choice he could and did make.

Even with his final choice, he was respectful of those who would deal with his death. When a friend came by the house to check on him he found a note on the door saying not to enter, call 911. As we would expect, all of his personal papers and affairs were in order. David was thoughtful and meticulous to the end.

Perhaps I can find solace in knowing that David always balanced passion with process. It wasn’t enough to love what he did, he had to do it perfectly. We can torment ourselves with wishing he hadn’t made such a final choice or wondering if we had known what he was planning, whether we could have taken action to prevent it. But David was always the eye of his own hurricane – purposeful, intense, and
self-contained.

It was said at the service that he will be with us always. I chaff at that thought. He’s gone from my life and any possibility of hearing him laugh or getting one of his fabulous hugs, is gone forever. There is a deep stillness in my heart at his passing. And yet, another thought comes to me. A reminder that I am still here among friends and family who are part of my life and I want them to know how much they mean to me. Why wait for a memorial service? There must not be any doubt that the people in my life recognize how much I value them. So, this reminder is David’s final gift to me, unplanned and unknown to him, but I accept it willingly. Thank you, David, I’ll miss you!

Karen Devers, Ph.D.
Portland, OR
July, 2011
© Karen D. Devers, 2011

Responses

  1. … David was always the eye of his own hurricane – purposeful, intense, and
    self-contained.

    Well said. Very well said.

    Thank you.

  2. I am glad to know where you are Karen. I had avoided getting on LinkedIn and Facebook because I preferred the privacy. But when I saw you were on it, I was glad to find out where you are now living. We sold the big house in Dana point rented for six months while I had a hip replacement in then bought a much smaller house in Beacon Hill in Laguna Niguel. I don’t know if you knew that our son Adam died in his sleep from my seizure 10 years ago – – the terrible loss for us. Noah spent 10 years as an ocean lifeguard supervisor in Dana point, traveling the world when he was off in the winter, surfing and pursuing his yoga in India. He took all the prep courses for nursing and got great grades, got into the Saddleback College nursing program, and hated it, so quit, worked on some specialized construction homes, went to Redding to help Tina’s brother work on their house up there, and is about to make money managing part of a medical marijuana farm in Humboldt (all legal). We went to Trinidad with the intention of putting our time between Laguna Niguel and Trinidad, but I became very ill and so we had to travel back-and-forth because there are very few doctors up there. I am much improving. We spent two hours again at the gym and jogging– more like shuffling! Our San Onofre beach has been covered with rocks, due to the big tides. So there you are Karen. The picture of you looks good. So fill us in? Tina sends greetings.
    Still your good friend,Darryl


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