It’s been a while since I posted a blog – so long that I can say that I’m no longer a sophomore blogger! I’ve moved up in the world. With a freshly-graduated group of Wabash men, I have officially become the Class of 2016 Junior Blogger (the capital letters make it seem more important). I hope that, for anyone who is reading this, your summer break is off to an excellent start. I would typically start out a summer blog with an energetic and enthusiastic post about what opportunities this summer holds for me, and there will be plenty of blogs for that. However this is not a blog about foresight, but rather reflection.
While watching friends from the class of 2015 sit on the senior bench after commencement last Sunday, I received a tearful phone call from my mother informing me that, without too many details, my Uncle Dave, age 59, had had an accident, and had been airlifted to a hospital in Louisville. She didn’t know much more. Dylan and I left Wabash immediately for Greenfield, and when we arrived at my home around 4:00, my parents had not heard many updates from the rest of the family. By 5:00, my father had received the text message that my uncle was unresponsive, and had been taken off of his respirator. He was expected to pass away, and did so the next day. As a family, we cried.
After the initial grief and tears had passed, our family remained in shock. This Friday afternoon, in the sun and breeze, we put my uncle’s body to rest. The days in between have allowed for recollection with family, and lots of reflection on who my Uncle Dave was. I can say with true sincerity that I would be doing my Wabash brothers a disservice if I did not share with them what kind of man my Uncle Dave was.
Though my Uncle Dave was not a Wabash man, he was someone that every Wabash man should strive to be. He embodied the four principles of the Wabash mission statement, including his ability to Think Critically, Act Responsibly, and Lead Effectively. But none more so than the way that he Lived Humanely. My Uncle Dave lived a life devoted to his faith. Christians are told to “love thy neighbor,” but many people, Christian or not, unfortunately fall short when it comes to this simple task. Uncle Dave was not one of those people. My Uncle Dave and Aunt Cathy live to love. At his viewing, I could not hug my aunt, and tell her that she and my uncle were the best people I know, without crying – because it is true. In everything he did, my Uncle conveyed the love and respect that he believed was the basic part of his faith. Whether it was the people he interacted with (both at home, or in his mission trips to South America), the natural world around him, which he loved (he would avoid stepping on anthills), or the students he taught, my Uncle Dave lived to serve others. Even after passing away, he, an organ donor, continued to serve, and helped 3 people continue to live their lives. My Uncle Dave did not agree with everyone (an important part of Thinking Critically), but his disagreement or disapproval was presented in a manner that offered nothing but respect. He was steadfast in his convictions, and projected authority, but was gentle in his actions, without offense – something that many students at Wabash, no matter how intelligent, sadly fail to practice. He was quick to hug, and slow to anger, found laughter easy, and seemed to never frown. My grandmother summed it up well, wearing a pin with his picture on it that simply said “Special.”
My parents say that when rubber bracelets with “W.W.J.D.”, or “What Would Jesus Do” on them started to become popular, they would humorously quip “W.W.D.D.” – What Would Dave Do? This comparison did not come from any cynicism regarding the saying on the bracelets. My parents, like everyone else that knew my uncle, just saw my uncle as a wonderful example of humane living.
I believe that my uncle is fine right now – that’s the part of my faith that makes death all right. There was a reason why my uncle was on this earth when he was, and a reason why he left it. We cry because this place was better for having Uncle Dave, and will be a little less bright without. I pray that I will be able to live a life in which I treat every person I meet with the same respect and compassion my uncle would have. I have the upmost admiration for my Aunt Cathy, who has been our rock and support this week, not the other way around. And I am in awe of both of their faith – they live life with a purpose, conviction, and serenity that many hope for, but few achieve. And I do not hesitate to say that if every Wabash man took a second to ask “W.W.D.D.” before they act, this world would be a much better place.
I love you Aunt Cathy and Uncle Dave