I'm not going to lie. It has been a very emotional few days for me. This was only the second funeral I've had to go to as an adult. The first was years ago, my grandfather who lived to 97. At that age, you understand and accept their passing. David, on the other hand, was 43 and we shared many similarities. Add to that he was a great guy and you have all the ingredients for it to hit close to home.
As I drove up Sunday afternoon, the closer I got to Seattle, the more I felt its immediacy. Thankfully, I was staying overnight with an old high school friend and his young family. Something about seeing new life (7 month and nearly 3 year old) balanced out my mood and returned hope to the equation. Monday morning I played with the kids for a couple hours before heading to the Memorial service.
As I walked up the hill to the church, I could feel it welling up in me again. The church was packed. I didn't recognize a soul, except for Davis, his son, who naturally couldn't grasp the gravity of the situation. The service was fairly standard with hymns and gospel readings. At the packed reception, they had a long emotional picture slide show. It was wonderful to see David throughout his life sharing the joy he always had for his family and friends.
Once that was over, they transitioned to an open microphone for testimonials. Most were long time friends or family who spoke. After the first few, there was a long pause where no one got up to speak. It started to get really awkward, so in that moment I stood up. I walked up to the lectern and began to speak. I hadn't planned on speaking but I also felt I came to Seattle for a purpose. I was representing a part of his life that not many people knew about. I was also carrying with me the well wishes of many poker players who had been positively impacted by him.
You can imagine it wasn't easy to get up in front of several hundred people I didn't know and begin, "Hi, my name is Bill and I'm a poker player..." But I was determined to share a bit of his story in poker. I repeated the story from my last blog about how he beat WSOP champion Joe Cada heads up and then launched into how he mentored numerous players both by example and offering advice. Poker is seen as a selfish game, but David reached out to help others. He looked to impart his life experience and advice on those who were willing to listen. He played poker not as a degenerate, but with a sincere desire to consistently improve his game and the prospects for his family. He touched many people throughout the poker world and certainly made many of us laugh at his wit and unique sense of humor.
After I spoke, things picked up again and there were a number more testimonials. When the pastor concluded that portion of things, I had one last thing I needed to do. I wanted to present the farewell messages from each of you that sent them to me for Patrice and Davis. As I was low in the pecking order of family and friends, that took a while, but as I was near the end, I also got a few extra moments to speak to her.
She was initially a bit defensive about David and his poker playing. She admitted resenting his playing as she saw that as time he took away from potentially spending with the family. But when I shared how he positively impacted a lot of people, she started to see it in a new light. Just as he had mentored and connected with many young people through his love of basketball, he has similarly impacted numerous young poker players who benefited from his input, not so much about poker strategy but about life. Then I handed her the packet with the numerous farewells and condolences. She was very touched and it seemed to allow her to re-frame her perspective. It seemed to give her some peace on an area of his life that she wasn't always okay with.
As I headed home, I realized that I went for a reason. It wasn't about me. It was about representing a part of him that people didn't know about. Thanks to those of you who sent messages. I think it will give her some closure and comfort as she thinks back on his life in poker.
I am including a poem and an excerpt of his life writeup from his memorial service pamphlet.
Gone from our sight
But never our memories;
Gone from our touch
But never our hearts.
Some people come into our
Lives and quickly go.
Others stay for awhile and leave
Footprints on our hearts...
And we are never the same.
David had a strong personality which allowed him to live life to its fullest. There was no half-way with David. Everything he did was 100%. His golf game was often reflective of who he was as a person. David could be deep in the trees 260 yards from the green. He would take one look at the ball, walk back to his bag, grab a one iron and head back into the trees. Never a moment's thought of the safe shot back to the fairway, he was always going for the green. This was the way David lived his life. you always got 100% of him, regardless of the game, discussion, or job. The hand he was dealt rarely mattered - his glass was always half-full. Indeed, David's drive is an eternal footprint he left in the hearts of all who knew him.