Sunday, December 17, 2006

Thoughts on a Friend

Last year, at about this time, a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with Kidney cancer, which had spread to his bones. He was told that he had just a few weeks to live. He lived until just after Easter, which he had not wanted to miss. This Christmas, my family has decided to put together a small booklet of memories about our great friend to share with his family. These are some of my thoughts on one of the best people I have had the privilege of knowing and the sorrow of losing when he was far far too young.

What a Riot, and What not
In Memory of David Davis

I have spent a lot of time mulling this over before actually sitting down to write, and I am having trouble, even yet, deciding what to say. David Davis was just such a huge personality, such a completely unflinching individual, that it is difficult to know where to begin.

I don’t remember when we first became involved with the family. The Davises have just always been a presence. I have picture memories of Christmas Eves when the whole family would come to our house for dinner, ostensibly so that the Organists could rest between services, but Mr. Davis didn’t rest. He lived every moment and was the life of the impromptu party. Mr. Davis had the art of living. He was unrelentingly interested in everyone. He always had time to stop for a short (or long) chat. He seemed to truly care about people. There are very few individuals in the world that would send a birthday card to a friend while in the midst of personal illness and hospitalization. But I got a card from David and Dorothy last January. It was unbelievable, and I think an indication of the greatness of character of both.

I think that I have seen more of Mr. Davis in company with the younger two children, because that is where I have stronger memories. Of N. patting his father on the tummy and asking when the baby was due. Of uproarious retellings of something seen on a trip somewhere. Of anticipatory discussions about seeing a Zonkey or a hideously decorated restaurant that just had to be visited while on the road east. Of giggled discussions with his littlest guy about the possible results of lighting a match behind a cow.

And then there was the HCC. While I’m writing this, I’m listening to the “Wreath of Carols” HCC Christmas album, and I am amazed again at what an incredible teacher and director Double D was. The music is truly beautiful. But, the things I remember most in those years are those quirks and eccentricities that made Double D such a fierce individual. My picture of Choir practice is comprised of a man wearing a pair of glasses on his eyes, another on his head, and a third around his neck, and still never being able to figure out which to use at any given moment. Of a man frustrated beyond belief that his second row second sopranos hadn’t learned their music, but pretending not to notice them sneaking peaks at it throughout the singing. And especially of the names given to songs. I never think of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”. It is always “Oh Come Get a Faceful”. The song is not “Deo Gracias”. It is “Deo Grass stains on the ____”. Christmas concerts just aren’t Christmas concerts without a director in some outrageously celebratory get-up in the brightest reds and greens imaginable. And Christmas carols aren’t Christmas carols without a man singing the descant in falsetto.

I’ve been thinking about the last concert I saw David direct, which was last year’s CBC A Christmas Carol with the Ars Antiqua. There he was, done up in a golden shimmery Victorian-style dinner jacket with vinyl lapels (classic Davis concert wear). And you would never have known the pain he was feeling, until after the show when he was in such agony that he could hardly walk. But he didn’t want to talk about that. He wanted to talk about the boy he had driven out of his way to pick up as a page turner so that the boy would have a chance to participate. He didn’t want concern for his sore back; he wanted to talk about a promising talented kid. And that is who he was.

He was a truly supportive friend to everyone. He came to all of my school musicals when I was involved in High School theatre. He took me out to lunch at least once, just to catch up. Every time I saw him he had some great news to share about a former chorister. Somehow he managed to find out what everyone was doing, and to support and promote them in it. That is something to which I cannot even aspire. It is a true gift.

So that is a little bit, a smidge of what has made up a much fuller person. I think, for me, that David will always be a picture of generosity and humour, hospitality and kindness, artistry, and especially individuality – always, always a hugely glorious eccentricity.


Maggie said...

Sorry about your friend, Jenn. Those were wonderful memories. :)

kidletsmum said...

That's a beautiful set of memories MadJenny. He sounds like a character-- the best sort of person to know!

MadJenny said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts.

It is very healing to go back and think of happier, more amusing times with people.