And yet, I know him. I know that he was a philosophy major, that he read Thich Nhat Hahn, that he was a dad, and even how he met his partner. I know all of these things without having ever spoken a word to Dave.
Unfortunately, the other big thing I know about Dave is how he died. ALS took him, when he was far too young and had far too much to live for. I have read about his last few years, the journey from health to disability, when he became dependent on those around him, especially his husband, Danni. It is heartbreaking and yet…
I first “met” Dave at a party forced indoors due to rain. I entered his and Danni’s house a total stranger, looking for Rosalie, Dave’s sister, an old friend from high school. Over the course of the next few hours I’d learn about him – he’d died just a few months earlier, on May 18, surrounded by his loved ones. People were still very, very sad and yet there was this thing that hung in the air. Maybe it emanated from Orion, his son, who toddled around as the adults talked and cooked and smiled as they recalled Dave stories. I certainly felt it from Tracey, a lifelong friend of Dave’s who lit up when she talked about him.
The stories, the presence of Dave throughout the house and the people, made its way into my soul without fanfare; as I left later that evening, I didn’t realize that I was taking with me one of those experiences that lasts far beyond the original one.
I went home and read about Dave – there were stories on his battle with ALS, local features and national ones, including on the challenges he faced at the end in his quest to donate his organs (he did – both kidneys and his liver). There were old pictures so I could see Dave as his loved ones had known him.
I had connected with Tracey on Facebook, and we would comment every so often on each other’s posts. And once in in awhile, Dave – this guy I didn’t know – would pop up too, in a memory or photo of someone who loved him.
And then, nearly a year later, Tracey told me about this thing they were doing: Artbender, a weekend event to raise money for artsunbound.org, dedicated to helping artists with disabilities. They’d be painting rocks to place by Dave’s tree (planted with him present, shortly before his death) in the local park.
The memory of that first encounter with Dave’s family came back to me and I happily accepted the invitation. I arrived at the house on a Saturday afternoon to find the painting well under way. From monochrome blue to the most fantastic rendering of Dave and Danni’s very house, they formed a collection that, like everything else surrounding Dave Adox, practically screamed love. Once the painting was done I spent the rest of the day soaking in his almost palpable spirit, which came through even more strongly with my greater sense of all he’d meant.
Because to be around his loved ones, his home, his belongings, is to be around Dave. I’ve no doubt that I would have liked him, would have been lucky to call him a friend. I also am quite sure that his is a legacy destined to go on – in his son, in his tree, and in every person he touched. He is that eternal reminder that within our lives, no matter how long, we have the opportunity to step beyond our struggles and touch hearts – both the ones we know and the ones we have no idea we could ever reach.
It is humbling to think of the mark Dave left on Earth. Even as he ended his time here he planted seeds – both literal and figurative – that will be eternally watered by those of us he left behind. We can learn from his example to be graceful under stress, courageous under fire, and always committed to a life filled with love
I end this with a big thank you to the man I will never meet, and leave you with the quote that he took on as his mantra.