Life Celebration for my Friend David

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Austin Texas Homes, LLC 453249

I put off writing about this for awhile, as I wanted to let it marinate in my mind before sharing it with others.  We attended the "life celebration" (NOT a funeral) for my friend David Wilder, who passed away March 28th.  The event was held on Saturday, April 5th.  I apologize for the length of this post, but I have a lot to say. :-)

A few days before the celebration, Jan Wilder called to ask me if I would be interested in speaking about David at the event.  I told her that I needed to think about it overnight.  I prayed and thought about it and I decided that I simply was too emotional to do this.  After watching a few others speak, I am convinced that I made the correct decision.  It was tough enough to be in the audience and keep my composure, much less on stage.

There were roughly FIVE HUNDRED people who attended, which really was not a big surprise to me.  David was a lifelong salesperson, and a "connector" who managed to stay in touch with everyone.  Once a friend, always a friend.  That just seemed to be a motto that he lived by.

We arrived early, and I saw several people that I hadn't seen since we left our previous church (where David and Jan still attended).  We were directed to the appropriate building, and I was warmly greeted by many friends.  The hugs that I got that day were not the half-hearted kind, but bear hugs, from both men and women.  It was as if everyone wanted to show their love for each other in a deep way.

I was doing fine (i.e. not crying) until we entered the main part of the sanctuary, and I saw a picture of a younger, healthy, smiling David projected onto the screen over the stage, along with his full name and birth and death dates.  Tears came swiftly.

During the actual celebration, one of the themes was "Things Dave Liked", which seemed appropriate.  Golf and food ranked highly.  Drew McHolm, who was officiating, was the pastor of our previous church, and he mentioned offhand that he was "David's best friend".  As others came up to speak, this became a running joke, because they ALL thought they were Dave's best friend.  He had a way of making you feel that way, and when you had lunch or a round of golf, you never felt like his attention was divided.  He was spending time with YOU, after all.  His sincere interest in others was an enviable trait.

So, the celebration lasted a couple of hours, and we sang some of Dave's favorite songs, including "Agnus Dei" and "How Great is Our God".  I have never heard people singing in this fashion before, and I doubt that I will hear it again anytime soon.  Generally, when people are singing in a church, there is a reserved quality to it, but not this day.  Everyone was belting out these songs, and the emotion was palpable.

Near the end, they showed a video with pictures from his childhood all the way through his recent illness.  There were several video clips as well.  David dancing in a goofy way with some friends, David participating in a church drama, and, lastly, David sharing his faith in Jesus in a frank manner, while looking right at the camera, encouraging others to get to know his friend and Lord.  This last part seemed particularly powerful, considering that many of his family members are not believers in Christ. 

David was the oldest of seven children, and I got a chance to speak with two of his brothers and his mom that day.  All of them were struck by how many people David impacted here in the Austin area.  To them, David is that kid from Worcester, Mass.  To us, he was a giant in the faith.  The last person we spoke to before we left was Charlie, who is eleven months younger than Dave.  Pam mentioned to me that she felt comforted while speaking to him, because he looks and acts so much like our friend.   

We spent a total of five hours on that beautiful Saturday catching up with friends, and sharing funny and poignant stories about David.  It was a reunion of sorts, and I know Dave would have LOVED it.  The guy knew how to work a room.

One of our friends made a comment that I will likely never forget, "This is a picture of what heaven will be like." I could not agree more.  There was a church split about nine years ago, and many left in a huff back then.  All of those harsh feelings were forgotten, and I saw people hugging and laughing that I honestly never thought would speak to each other again, at least not here on earth.

Overall, this journey has been life-changing for me as well.  I watched people streaming in and out of David's home in the last weeks of his life, many travelling from several states away just to tell him what he meant to them and how he brought them closer to God.  I was among them, of course.  David was 49 years old when he died.  I am 37 now.  This made me begin to evaluate the impact that my life is having on others.  If I die in 12 years, how many of my friends will feel compelled to visit and weep at my bedside and tell me that my words and my actions deeply affected them? 

David affected the course of my life in subtle ways for years - his openness, his boldness, his friendship, and now, even his death. 

A friend of mine made an interesting point the other day while we were chatting in the church parking lot.  He didn't know David personally, but he came to know him through my discussions during our men's group.  He said, "Sometimes I think God takes people like David earlier, because it does make a bigger impact and it often inspires people to carry the torch that they carried."  This is an exceptional truth, as I have found myself thinking along these very lines ("If David isn't here anymore, who is going to be that guy?"). 

With that in mind, Pam and I have decided to join and help our associate pastor who is planting a new church in Georgetown, Texas starting this fall.  I had been considering it already, but now I am certain that this is something I am supposed to do, based on recent events.  Dave was always looking for opportunities to spread God's Word and God's love with others.  How can I impact the largest number of people possible?  By staying where I am, or by starting something from the ground up?  The answer seems very clear to me.

Several of you have asked about Jan and how she is doing now.  Before addressing that, I wanted to mention that the money we raised at the AR Gathering was truly needed.  It took me a couple of days to get it to her, and she later told me that she was down to $39 in her checking account the day before I brought these funds.  WOW!  Talk about an answered prayer.  Thank you again to all of you who have contributed to help her. 

With regard to Jan and her current emotional state, she is struggling mightily with the loss, but she is firmly faithful to God that she will work through the pain.  I would encourage anyone reading this to visit www.carepages.com and sign up to leave her some kind words on the Message Board.  The profile name is "DavidinAustin". 

Someone asked me what happened to David's body, and I didn't actually know until I spoke with Jan's sister.  David was cremated, and half of his ashes were scattered on his favorite local golf course.  His mother took the other half home to scatter at the lake house where he grew up.  This seemed particularly appropriate, since he spent about half of his time in each location.

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to send cards, emails, or to call and express condolences for me.  I thank you also for your prayers and kind words when things were uncertain over the past several months.  Your support made things easier to handle.

Lastly, I will leave you with a quote from my wife (which I shared in a previous post): "David got his work here done quickly."  Truer words were never spoken.

God bless you if you actually read this whole post, which is probably my longest ever.  Have a terrific week!

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If you're looking for a home in the Austin area, you can also visit my primary website at www.austintexashomes.com.  Thanks!

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Rainmaker
236,392
Debbie Summers
Charles Rutenberg Realty - New Smyrna Beach, FL
Jason - I've been following your posts and have been really touched not only by how much you loved David, but the out pouring of support that you have received.  I'm truly sorry for your loss, but find comfort in the fact that he brought so much to your life and will continue to.
Apr 23, 2008 08:44 AM #12
Rainer
274,613
Adam Waldman
Westcott Group Real Estate Company - Hauppauge, NY
Realtor - Long Island
JASON - Posts like these are particularly difficult for me to read, as it brings me back to the time that I lost my father.  Although I think about him everyday, it's not usually in a way that is so raw.  I know that David made that same kind of impact on you, so this is a very tough time.  I'm glad to see that you are going to do your part to fill the big shoes that David left behind.  I can't think of anyone that is more up to the task.
Apr 23, 2008 10:45 AM #13
Rainmaker
826,134
Fran Gaspari
Patriot Land Transfer, Inc. - Limerick, PA
"The Title Man" - Title Insurance - PA & NJ

Jason,

There is a familiar passage which is read often at Catholic funeral services that reads:

  But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.  

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. 

For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; 

Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. 

As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.

In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with the elect.

Comfort yourself in this!!! Thanks,   Fran

Apr 23, 2008 10:52 AM #14
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Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate
Jason, I wondered when and if you were going to write on it. I'm glad you waited until you had clarity. I've been involved in 2 church splits. Terrible. God bless you in your new church plant. My pastor spoke on blogging a few Sunday's ago and reaching people with the gospel through web 2.0 it was a great encouragement. So start a blog when you start your new plant. 
Apr 23, 2008 12:11 PM #15
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Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)
MELODY - Yes, Amanda and I have discussed a number of faith-related issues, and we have a lot in common.  Thanks for your kind comments!
Apr 23, 2008 03:26 PM #16
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Jesse & Kathy Clifton
Jesse Clifton & Associates, REALTORS® - Fairbanks, AK
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Jason - I would love to add something insightful and inspiring but I don't know that I have it in me to compete with what you've written.  David touched the lives of many people on this earth... he was a true and faithful servant of the Father.  When my times comes I would hope to be able to be remembered as such. 

Apr 23, 2008 04:15 PM #17
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Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services
Jason- I read your whole post and it did not seem long at all since I was hanging on every word. I believe this is your best written post ever. And I could feel you speaking from your heart.
Apr 23, 2008 04:42 PM #18
Rainmaker
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Roberta LaRocca
Simply Vegas Real Estate - Las Vegas, NV
REALTOR®, Broker, Salesperson, NV. Lic BS.507
Jason, This was very touching and inspirational.  David was a good man and a good friend to many.  You bring up a good point, which I know we discussed on the phone, about how much of an impact would you or I have on our friends, if we died in 12 years.  I have actually thought about that a lot since we talked about it.  Good luck with your new church! 
Apr 23, 2008 04:49 PM #19
Rainer
36,750
Susan Davis
Austin, TX
Excellence Advocate

Jason, I think David affected even more people than you can imagine. I know his journey home has had me rethinking my llife also. I grew to love him through your posts. Maybe not hime in th4e first sense but what and who he represented, how he lived his life, how he affected everyone who knew him.

Thanks for sharing such a personal and painful event in your life and allowing us to get to know and love David without ever meeting him in person.

Blessings,

Susan

Apr 23, 2008 06:16 PM #20
Rainmaker
120,685
Gary McNinch
Better Properties Real Estate - Renton, WA
Broker, Renton WA Real Estate

Jason,   

I read every word, then reread every word.  Then I just stopped and prayed for David's family, friends (I didn't meet him but I know I would have been his best friend), the new church and the mending of the old split.  I hope writing this was a healing process for you.  

At Keller Williams we have talked for many years about our "big why".   Why are we really doing what we do? What is our personal mission statement?  Mine is to be so very successful helping people buy and sell homes that I can devote my time and money to building churches.  Getting people saved is my "big why."  You said you were thinking about your life and what it means.  It sounds like David knew his "big why" and you are getting yours figured out.  Another blessing from your friend as we grow in this lifetime.

List and Sell (and grieve, share, hug and grow in faith)  Gary @ RentonHomeFinder 

 

Apr 23, 2008 06:47 PM #21
Rainmaker
468,928
Alexander Harb
Knights Investing - Mesquite, TX
Dallas, Texas Real Estate Investing

I do not know David...... BUT
I have read your posts about him......

"You will know them by their fruits."

David sure had a LOT of fruit!!

Heaven is richer and we have an
example of how Jesus is.... through
your friend David....

May God bless and comfort you, Jason...

Apr 23, 2008 06:53 PM #22
Rainer
3,183
0000 0000
Suwanee, GA
I don' t know David but it sounds like he really had a life worth celebrating. He was good stewart of the time, talents, resources and love God gave him to share with others. Your post really blessed and inspired me. Thank you for sharing it . I hope God will comfort you, his family and friends during this time.
Apr 24, 2008 01:27 AM #23
Rainer
21,570
JDo Doe
Barrington, RI
Jason - that was a great way to honor your friend.  His family and wife sound just as great as he was...he is now in a better place and I'm sure looking down with pride on all his friends and family!
Apr 24, 2008 02:33 AM #24
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Karen Hurst
RICOASTALLIVING.COM - Warwick, RI
Rhode Island Waterfront!

Jason, I read your whole post and my heart is heavy reading it. You are so young to experience such a traumatic event. Your friend, although his last months were difficult, is now at peace, whereas you now have to deal with all the feelings. It is not easy, and it may sound cliche' but it does get better with time. There will come a day when you realize you have gone one whole day without thinking about it and feeling miserable. Also, put yourself in his shoes and think how you would want him to be if it happened to you. I'm sure he wouldn't want you to be so sad.  Your new start from the ground up, probably is the very thing to keep you focused on what your life path may be. Best of luck.

Apr 24, 2008 02:44 AM #25
Rainmaker
162,574
Mary Thomas BH,MB,HB, PV, Estates LA+
Remax Estates Properties - Los Angeles, CA
Mary C. Thomas Your Agent around the Globe
Jason,  YOu are so blessed to be having such a wonderful friend as David. LIke I told you before, my first husband died young and I believe that he was already so much wiser and more intune to himself that his mission was done..We miss him dearly and I wish I would have been more mature to appreciate all that he stood for that I took for granted...I have yet to see someone who can fill his shoes fully, My friend told me you may not find everything that he was in one person again but you will be filled with a piece of this and that from many people which is what I have found. God bless you and I am glad to see that you are getting through such a tragic loss..I still tell myself we are suppose to be rejoicing that they are in Heaven with Our Father but then the pity party sets in and I try to fight it... Have a blessed day while God is stretching you and molding you for your higher purpose.
Apr 24, 2008 06:09 PM #26
Rainmaker
116,834
Kim Southern- "Sold" with Southern Hospitality
Century 21 In the Mountains - Ellijay, GA
Greetings from the North Georgia Mountains!

What a wonderful "book end" to David's earthly life! And what better way to pay tribute to your friend than by looking at life in terms of "WWDD," which you did when deciding to help build the new church.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful man with all of us.

 

Apr 25, 2008 07:23 AM #27
Rainmaker
143,647
Michelle Pimentel
Empire Home Staging Solutions - Upland, CA
ASP, IAHSP Empire Home Staging

Jason,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this great friend of yours.  Having a loss in your life is never an easy thing, but the comfort of knowing that your friend whose life touched you so deeply is with God, is the most awesome thing ever! Imagine what his life must be now!  In this cruel world we live in, we sometimes can take comfort in knowing that our loved ones who have passed, are with God and enjoying paradise! Somehow this always brings me comfort.  Best wishes as you work through this tough time. 

Apr 25, 2008 09:30 AM #28
Rainmaker
130,480
Kevin O'Shea
Coldwell Banker - White Plains, NY
White Plains, NY Real Estate

Wonderful, moving post. He must have been a real treasure and You are following in his steps.

 

All the best

Apr 25, 2008 09:47 AM #29
Rainmaker
76,453
Natalie Langford
Realty Negotiations - Winchester, VA
Winchester, VA Real Estate

Jason, I'm always a little late in finding these posts, aren't I?  I'm glad you shared.  I had been watching out for one and like Katarina, I read it all, hung on to all the words and I'll try to make it over to Jan's blog this week. 

Hey, you're a lot like David in your ability to befriend us all.  For the record, if something should happen to  you or your wife, I'll hop on a plane and be there.  There are a ton of others here on AR who would do the same in a heartbeat. 

On the subject of churches and 2.0, our pastor recently had a time following his sermon when any one could text in a question.  It went to some center where the number was scrubbed for privacy and then popped up on his laptop.  It was pretty cool!  Good luck with the new church.

Apr 25, 2008 04:26 PM #30
Anonymous
Chas Winckel

Jason 

 What a great tribute to David and his message that he has impressed each of us to continue to live a life of passion and purpose.  Having been at David's celebration of life I am hollow with the passing of my friend but am full of the things that are still undone.  I fully expected David and I to change the world one man at a time. 

 Without him it will not be as fun but it is a journey that all of us who were touched by him must endeavor to bring encouraging life giving hope.  Your life is changed, my life is changed as well as many others and through the tears we must continue to pursue serving each other. 

 Thank You for being an ambassador for Him Thank You for sharing a part of you and your travels through this time.  It gives me great comfort to know that there are other brothers out sowing seeds that will enrich the lives of many. 

KEEP GOING!!!!  KEEP GIVING!!!!   KEEP SHARING YOUR STORY FOR ALL OF US TO WATCH HOW GOD IS USING YOU IN A MIGHTY WAY. 

Chas

May 04, 2008 11:45 AM #31
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