It's been 36 years. Seems like yesterday. Seems like a lifetime.
Dave was 18. He was a freshman at Grand Rapids Baptist College (now Cornerstone University). On Tuesday, January 10, 1978, he died in his room on campus. His picture is posted in the campus library -- I wonder if anyone remembers?
Dave grew really fast in his last couple years of high school. He was working on a farm, nearly 6 miles away, often biking between home and work a couple times a week. He'd been chubby in his early teens but had really skinnied out in his senior year -- looking good and feeling good.
In the fall of '77, he went off to college, like thousands of other kids. He was a decent student. He played the tuba .. well. While in high school, the US Navy band came to our town for a concert .. Dave was selected to play along with them .. an honor and memory he valued. In college, he continued to pursue his musical interests, playing in the college's Symphonic Band. He especially loved a Bach composition and when the school had no funds to purchase the music, he bought it for the entire band.
The most important thing in Dave's life was his walk with Christ. He very much desired to be exactly where God wanted him to be and doing what God wanted him to do. He was outspoken and consistent and his faith was rare for a teen.
In November, with his roommates, Dave attended a taco party. On the way back to campus, he wasn't feeling very well but brushed it off to a little heartburn. His friends were a little concerned about his coloring and decided to take him to ER. Once there, doctors found that his heart was beating at about 200 beats per minute. Attempts were made to slow it down but to no avail. The last resort was to stop his heart and re-start it, hoping it would start. The doctor told him the risks. Dave was unphased. He told the doctor that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" and if Dave didn't wake up, the doctor should not be distressed -- it was God's will. He did request that if he didn't wake, that the doctor would call the campus, tell them what happened and ask them to sing "Amazing Grace" and "be happy". That night, all went well. Dave's heart was stopped and started 3 times to start it at the right number of beats .. but Dave survived.
In the weeks that followed, Dave saw a heart specialist. He ended up on medication that the doctor expected Dave would need for a year or so then would probably never need again. The doctor also told him that his life expectancy was about 80 years. No problem.
Over Christmas break, Dave really struggled with where God wanted him. He spent an entire night laying awake and praying, but found no direction. My parents, concerned that once someone has had a medical problem, it could be difficult to get life insurance (and expecting that one day he would marry and have a family), applied for an insurance policy. A local doctor did an examination and a deposit was made.
At that time, we lived 200 miles from my parents, so on the second weekend in January, my parents and brother came to visit. It was a nice weekend, although I don't really remember much about it. The family left on Sunday afternoon, so my parents could take Dave back to college -- classes were supposed to start later that week. Dave worked in food service so would start work as students began to filter back to campus.
Tuesday was an ordinary day. Keith had a dental appointment. I did housework and chased our 16-month old daughter. Dave was at school and went to work in the kitchen -- it was student registration day. He told his boss he wasn't feeling well -- his boss sent him back to his room to lay down. His roommates were there -- they didn't like his color. The Resident Advisor was called. He got to the room and immediately called the ambulance. He also called a couple people, on campus, who were EMTs. Help was there within 2 minutes. CPR was done. The ambulance arrived and they took over for the EMTs. Dave was rushed to the hospital. That night, the same doctor who had treated him in November was on duty. Every effort was made to revive the young man, but after several hours, Dave was pronounced dead.
The physician had been impressed with this young man a couple months earlier and remembered his words. He called the president of the college, told him the whole story and told him of Dave's request that the student's sing "Amazing Grace" and "be happy". The story was related to our family.
The funeral was held later that week, in a tiny little mission church we called our "home church". At the back of the packed auditorium, doors were opened to a little fellowship room where most of the Symphonic Band was seated. The music Dave had purchased had arrived on the day he died -- he never heard them play it with earthly ears but they played it for his funeral. They also played "Amazing Grace". And the congregation sang it.
In a weird twist, the day after he died, my parents got the doctor's report for the insurance policy in the mail -- Dave had gotten a clean bill of health.
We don't always understand God's timing or His plan. We do know that He allows all things for a reason. I miss Dave... maybe more as I grow older than I did back then. I have no other siblings so find myself an "only child" (sort of). He loved his little niece, Laura and as she has grown and reached some of the milestones in her life, I've missed his presence -- I know how proud he would be of her. He'd love her family. Our other children were born later -- he'd think they were pretty cool too! Our son resembles Dave -- sometimes it's a little freaky.
One day, I'll see Dave again ... until then, this is for you Dave.