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An Inspiration, A Leader, A Friend

Saturday, March 3, 2007

I received one of those dreaded calls this morning. You know the ones; we've all gotten them: "I've got some bad news. David Stewart died last night."

David fell down a staircase and quickly died. I find it ironic in a strange kind of way that concrete was the last thing to wrap around David's theological brain.

When Wayne called me, there was a brief moment of, "Oh my God." Then, the day went on as normal. David was forefront in my thoughts, but sometimes we don't allow ourselves to grieve for those who are most important in our lives. I didn't have time to grieve when my father died; I had a mother to care for and I like to believe she needed me to do just that. When Scott died, I had too many irons in the fire to stop and let myself think. Today, I didn't have a choice.

The news started sinking in at around 2:30 this afternoon. As fate would have it, I was moving some furniture and there were several reminders of David: dated church bulletins that included my hand written notes, the sound track of Annie, pictures followed by memories, and more. By 6:30, I was weeping uncontrollably. It was a hard cry ... the kind that limits your breathing. An hour later, I went to bed and stayed in bed until nearly mid-night. I discovered how to get through moments of despair. Even though I was home alone, I didn't push the pain away, move in a thousand different directions, or even try to write. I swear I would have if I could have, but I couldn't. I felt dead inside. I felt his death inside. No more exchanging poetry, no more calls, e-mails, conversations about movies, books, Starbucks and bagels.

I feel as though I have fallen silent with him, although, I know that he is the very one who will continue to help me move forward though his teachings. He prepared me to be more accepting of everyone and everything ... including death.

David didn't have to try to be a teacher, a therapist, or a leader -- it came as naturally to him to as the setting sun.

David was one of the strongest influences in my life. He was a brilliant leader, the real deal, a real friend. He made everyone feel important because everyone is important. He didn't sugar-coat religion or Christianity; he was the black sheep of the Episcopalian family, the one who loved but questioned aloud. He shared stories of his life, the love and illness of his wife, his children, his aging parents, his mentally challenged brother and a sister whose resemblance to David is uncanny. David openly shared his faults -- he didn't want to be seen as perfect or anyone to feel they were held to a higher standard because they were loved by God. He only wanted us to know and feel that we are equal as humans. I'm no better, you're no better. His collar was outward symbol of his beliefs and he shared those beliefs by making everyone feel welcome ... poor, wealthy, gay, straight, people of every color ... his greatest gift may have been his vision. He didn't care was he saw on the outside; he cared what he saw on the inside. He saw something beautiful inside everyone.

The message in his sermons were consistent and simple. Love. Accept. Question. Keep Going. God Loves You.

"We sort. We discriminate. It helps us decide who to associate with. Is that a good thing?"

"We think and feel as differently as much as we look differently."

"Yes, we're different with different histories, but they are united. We are branches off the same vine."

"We love in a world that is individually focused."

"Every single day I ask God, "Why was my brother born like this? There are no answers."

"We're the gate. We have to be able to see and move on both sides; that some things are a mixture of good and bad. We start with that acceptance of ourselves."

"The messages we get in life are not always easy to read. If you feel like you've gone astray, don't define yourself as good or bad, define yourself as human."

Those are simple words, but they are David's words. That was David's heart. He had a brilliant mind and I will miss his wit, cleverness, and his love.

David was loved by many. He will be missed by many more.

David and Jemme in the corner of the rectory.

See David, I'm not the only one who likes stay in the background ... ;)

I love this shot. It's a little out of focus, but this is all David. Lela, I'm so happy I have this picture of the two of you!

Stephanie, I'll never forget this moment. You looked so beautiful. Just think, your little girl was probably the youngest to ever hear David speak. That's pretty special.

David and Vickie Wiseman and David's mother, Mrs. Stewart. Vickie, I'm sure David loved your soup just as much as I do!

To be married by David would have to be one of the greatest memories anyone could have.

Wayne, I can't imagine why David would be walking away from you ... you were still talking. Imagine that!!! Seriously, he loved and respected you and I know the feeling was mutual.

I'll never forget when Wayne stood before the congregation and told us, "I always felt kind of strange when the Bishop would stand before us and call us 'Beloved.' Today, David, I understand what the word 'Beloved' means."

Miss Bobbie, David had nothing but repsect for you and Dr. Wagner.

There is love ...

Isabella, David always said you had a mind of your own. What a gift to be taught by someone who equally had a mind of his own.

Toriah, I wish I had your beautiful face in this shot, but I know it's you!

A few of the women David loved.

And then the family he adored ...

Notice how well the kids are listening?!?!? I'm sure they were taking it all in ... even the kids seemed to enjoy David.

David never passed up food. Never.

Springfield Place. David, with a lot of help from Mr. Herman, gave these folks a lot to look forward to every week.

This one's for me. I remember what you said after reading a copy of my book. I told you, "There's a lot of mistakes in there," and you said, "I didn't read it looking for mistakes. I was looking for you."

There's no looking for you anymore, David, I know how to find you. But, wait for me, k? I think I'll even try and grow a real plant -you know - just in case you left behind your green thumb for me. ;)

I love you. Thanks for loving me and showing by example what it takes to be leader.


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