David Calvin Wood (1959-2019)


A missed call from your sister at 3:35 am is never a good thing. Sitting up in bed, cradling the phone with shaking hands, I hesitate. There is this knowing, deep inside, that once I make this call, our lives will never be the same. So I sit there, ashamed of my lack of courage, knowing she needs me. In my head I’m screaming “I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know.” That’s when I hear my mom scolding me as if she were sitting right next to me, “Cheryl, she needs you, make the call.” I finally comply, it’s my mother, and she trained me to be obedient.   

With enormous dread I tap the link from my favorites file labeled Nancy, the minute I hear my sister’s mournful voice, “David passed,” my countenance crumbles, I sink down into the bedding, hands covering my mouth. My cry is ragged and unrestrained. Tammy grabs the phone, as a nurse she’s been trained to remain calm in the most horrendous of situations, her voice is soft, but steady, as she recounts the notable circumstances of the last few hours.

It was the middle of a cold, dark night when Nancy was awakened. Sleeping on the couch beside David, who fell asleep in the easy chair, she reaches over to wake him, and bring him to bed. His face is cold, he is unresponsive, she calls 911. Tammy arrives minutes after the paramedics, who desperately try to revive David, but he is already gone, and within the hour he is pronounced dead. The bereaved trio, Nancy, Tammy, and Mackenzie, are forced to say final good-byes, to a beloved husband, father, and grandpa, as they enter uncharted territory, unprepared, shocked, and despairing. Clinging to one another so as not to be swept away by their ragging emotions. They are left wondering how they will live without him?

Most of the world is covered by water says Charles Waterman, a fisherman’s job is simple, pick out the best parts. I would say David Calvin Wood was an overachiever, he found the best woman, had two beautiful daughters, a precious grandson, and enjoyed the best life has to offer. He has a new heavenly birthday, January 25th, early morning, when all the good fishermen head out, his beloved wife by his side.

There are things death can not touch. You know what I mean? Like the sound of his laughter, his distinctive footsteps ambling down the hall, the image of him sleeping in his easy chair, talking on the phone with Rick, pulling a fish out of the lake, holding his grandson. We never think of our time as finite. Instead we saunter through life as if we will live forever. When the landscape of your life suddenly changes, you are left with the impossible task of repainting your life, minus the brilliant colors, or familiar forms. 

“I’ve thought a lot about death recently, the finality of it, the argument ending in mid-air. One of us hadn’t finished, why did the other one go? And why without warning? Even death after long illness is without warning. The moment you had prepared for so carefully took you by storm.” Janette Winterson

Why weren’t we paying closer attention? To everything, the way his eyes lit up when Nolan came over, his courage when tackling a multitude of health problems, how he wove a good story, his life long love of Disneyland, that crazy beard that tickled the ones he kissed, his contagious laugh, or how he looked forward to a meal with Nancy at Angelo’s. Now we’re forced to paste them together from memory, as if a collage, without border or frame.

In being with dying, we arrive at a natural crucible of what it means to love and be loved. And we can ask ourselves this: Knowing that death is inevitable, what is most precious today? Roshi Joan Halifax

Walter Mosley says when they’re gone the world turns upside down and you’re left holding on, trying not to fall off. She’s left trying to reconcile all the David’s she has come to know, the one who kissed her after their first date, with the one she kissed good night only days ago. I wonder if the first and last kiss are stirring in her soul. 

Death is nothing else but going home to God, the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity. Mother Teresa

I watch Nancy sitting listlessly in his chair, she looks small, lost, unaware of the chaos swirling around her. I know she’s wondering how she will survive this incredible loss? She said to me, “how is it possible for someone with such a big presence to be here one minute, and gone the next?” Jandy Nelson says, “there are families all over the world staring at beds that are no longer slept in, shoes that are no longer worn. Families that no longer have to buy a particular cereal, a kind of shampoo. There are people everywhere standing in line at the movies, buying curtains, walking dogs, while inside, their hearts are broken.” Be kind to each other we’re all struggling with heavy burdens. 

“In a time like that, the past meets you wherever you turn. The days do not use their own hours and minutes, they find ones you have lived through with the person you are missing.” Ivan Doig

I read somewhere that grief is an existential testament to the worth of our beloved, to the way he was valued, to the love that was shared. Our sweet relatives from Texas, Vicky, Katie, Nathaniel, Carolina, and Violet ignore their own schedules, jump on a plane, and gather at the house to sit in “shiva” with Nancy as she mourns her beloved. Cousins Kathy, Rick, and Julie flow into Nancy’s arms with overwhelming love and support. Neighbors wander in and out of her home a living testament to the many people David loved.

So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it… Every lament is a love-song,” says Nicholas Wolterstorff. I love that, every lament is a love-song to our beloved, a time to be cherished, shared, revered in honor of this extraordinary man.

Daughters Tammy and MacKenzie are her anchors, holding her steady as relatives, friends, and neighbors rotate endlessly through the front door. With hugs, tears, and casseroles we attempt to fill an inconceivable void. He was beloved, she is beloved, and together they made the world a better place.

It is not length of life, but depth of life. Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’re all looking for signs of David, like an unexplained breeze in a closed room, the whine of a hearing aid, the flicker of a light. We want to know he is with us. I find myself scanning the room in search of him, until my eyes lock with my sisters, and we know. We just know he is with us. 

“Though nothing can prepare us for the process of dying or experiencing the death of a loved one, we can take steps to appreciate those we love and remind them how we feel. It’s important that those we value know in the moment how much of a difference their lives make on ours – right now,” notes Tyler Henry. Our primary calling is to love one another, so run to your beloved, kiss them on the lips, whisper in their ear, “I love you, I’ve loved you, I will always love you.”

“Lay down
Your tired & weary head my friend.
We have wept too long
Night is falling
And you are only sleeping

We have come to this journey’s end
It’s time for us to go
To meet our friends
Who beckon us
To jump again

From across a distant sky
A C-130 comes to carry us
Where we shall all wait 
For the final green light

In the light of
The pale moon rising
I see far on the horizon
Into the world of night and darkness
Feet and knees together

Time has ceased
But cherished memories still linger
This is the way of life and all things
We shall meet again
You are only sleeping.” 
José N. Harris

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll weep on the floor together, until it’s time to get up suggests Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg. Whatever getting up looks like? 

Anecdotes:
  • “Remember that people are only guests in your story – the same way you are only a guest in theirs – so make the chapters worth reading.” Lauren Klarfeld
  • My Biggest worry is that when I’m dead and gone, my wife will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it. Koos Brandt
  • If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.  Doug Larson

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