Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reflecting and Remembering

It has now been nine days since my father died. It's been so busy around here lately, I just haven't found the time to sit and try to get the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions down in writing. But make no mistake- I've been mulling, pondering...

So here's a few simple thoughts: I miss my dad. I don't think his death has really sunk in yet, but I am truly starting to feel his absence. Seeing him every day- or talking to him every day- was not the norm for the last few years, so I think a little time had to go by before it really started registering that he was gone. But he is, and it's starting to hurt.

It strikes me as shocking- and amazing- that I watched someone die. Even more shocking that it was my father- but just the simple thought that I watched someone take their last breath is surreal to me. The end was a touching tribute to faith, family, and love- he was surrounded by family, my sister and I were at the bedside, touching him, and he died in my mother's arms. It was dignified- but earlier in the day I was overwhelmed with feeling insulted that death, or anything, would put my sweet father through such an ordeal. I will not forget the sound of the “death rattle.” Katie told me she now understood how someone could call death “evil.” However, the end was triumphant. My mother held Dad in her arms and he left us peacefully. It was the most Christian thing I have ever seen.

The visitation and funeral had several hundred people in attendance. The chapel held 300 people and there were still folks standing in the back. I was driving the car directly behind the hearse heading to the cemetary and could not see the end of the cars following us in my rear view mirror. The funeral itself was very joyous. There were tears of course, but a lot of laughter, some beautiful hymns, an upbeat version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” and even a show of hands for how many in the crowd had ever been to a concert with Dad (a lot). The preacher leading the service (Jim Biedenharn) was perfect and really knew what Dad wanted for his “farewell,” and when my father's body was being taken to the hearse, we gave Dad a standing ovation for a victorious life well lived. He was loved.

Dad was a great father- not perfect, but a loving, warm, earnest man who has left a wonderful example for his children to follow. It is strange to realize that the man to whom I have most looked for guidance and direction is gone.

I do think he was always a little baffled at how a conservative, Republican, Protestant father could have led by example and spawned a liberal, Catholic, vegetarian, Democratic son. But he did! He was always supportive of me, and I am who I am because of him.

A close family friend told me the other day that Dad told him how proud he was of me when I became a Catholic. I never doubted that, but to hear that means a lot.

I am sad he will never meet his grandchildren. But I'm more sad that his grandchildren will never meet him.

Dad called me “Sport” my whole life, the irony of which is not lost on me.

He was the Ground Monster, a creature that chased children but could only get them if they were standing on the ground. Cars, trees, porches, and swingsets were our saving graces.

He loved the song “Greensleeves” and whistled it really fast to be the theme song for our Reid Family Adventures, where we would all climb on a swing tied to a huge pecan tree branch and pretend it was a hot air balloon.

He created a bed-time game show called Hug My Babies, where my sister and I (and any other lucky kid who happened to be spending the night) would answer questions competing for the grand prize, a hug. The host was Justin Time, the announcer was Cliff Dweller.

We used to wrestle in the front yard. Inevitably this was devolve into him tickling me until I couldn't breathe. Not so much fun, but a fond memory.

He would bring home big pieces of cardboard for us to slide down the hill.

Many of my friends called him Papa Reid. Jeremy called him P-Daddy (short for Pretend Daddy). Chris Blue called him Diamond Dave.

He loved music and taught me all about bands and singers and who played guitar on what albums. But his tastes went far beyond classic rock. In 1998, Dad went with me and Jeremy to see the Beastie Boys in Atlanta, not because we needed a chaperone, but because Dad really liked the Beastie Boys. He was the first person I ever knew to like Alice In Chains, Portishead, and Radiohead. He really liked Faith No More. He has two Audioslave CD's. He loved Beck.

I always enjoyed talking to Dad about all of our Africa interests because he was really interested. This is not to say that the rest of my family is not interested, but their interests are generally because Katie and I were involved in it. Dad was fun to talk to because he thought the subjects themselves were interesting, and I always appreciated that.

I could go on and on about Dad, and I probably will in future blog posts. But I'll end this with the text that the editor of the Vicksburg Post, Charlie Mitchell, wrote for his weekly editorial on Monday, December 10th. Vicksburg is not a huge town- it's less than 30,000 people, I believe- but not too many people have the editor of the paper write an article in tribute to their life. I am damn proud of my father David Reid, my dad and my friend whom I loved dearly.

Remember David Reid, who never lost the melody
by Charlie Mitchell

We met in elementary school.

After those days our encounters were rare and brief. They came at predictable intervals as we aged, in grocery store aisles, at back-to-school nights for our own children, reunions.

Exchanges with David Reid always went past, "Hi, how are you? Fine and you? Fine." He always had something wry, something personal, something sincere to say.

David made an impression, a good impression. He was consistently upbeat.

It was good that the Post had David on the front page a few weeks ago, "outing" him to the world for what was probably the most outlandish deed of his life. David was one of four Hinds Community College commuters from Vicksburg who in 1973 carved, in giant letters, "Remember Duane Allman" into an earthen wall along the then-new Interstate 20 near Bovina. Prompting the news story was a performance in Vicksburg by Gregg Allman, brother of the legendary guitarist who had been killed in a 1971 motorcycle wreck.

The carved memorial lasted for years, becoming an icon to I-20 travelers. Gregg told David and his co-conspirators the family had seen photos and appreciated the gesture. That meant a lot.

Anybody who knows anything about music--and David knew a lot about music--will tell you that Duane Allman, though a rocker's rocker, always kept the melody, never lost it to the noise.

And so it was with David.

He was keenly intelligent, with an excellent memory, but he didn't care whether anyone knew it or not. Impressing others wasn't something he desired to do. David was as casual as the Hawaiian shirts and wide-brimmed hats that were his stock-in-trade.

He and his classmate, Tricia, equally smart and warm in her friendships, formed a marital partnership in which they derived pleasure from being considerate of one another. Money didn't matter. Having a posh house didn't matter. Having the newest car didn't matter. What other people thought, did, cared about or worried about didn't matter. People mattered. Relationships mattered.
Together, David and Tricia infused their ideals into their children, Erica and Christopher, talented and creative children who have become talented and creative adults. The Reids equipped their daughter and son with roots and wings the way great parents do--a grounding in values plus decency plus a yearning to explore, learn, serve.

Word that David had cancer came years ago. Tricia, an Internet blogger before that term was even invented, wrote about it the same as she had everything else. Both were realistic, prayerful, confident, scared, accepting the challenge. What choice did they have?

They won a hell of a lot of battles, but, as the cliche goes, not the war.

Just a few weeks ago, a backache sent David to the doctor. It wasn't a
pulled muscle. It was another malignancy. The verdict: David would die in a matter of weeks.

They say hospice nurses are compassionate, which would be expected. But they're also pretty seasoned. After David's nurse had her first private meeting with him, telling him how things would go, I'm told she left the
room in tears.

The end came last Sunday night just as forecast, family and friends all there. A free spirit became free.

Encounters with people like David Reid are brief and rare. When they happen, listen for the melody. They've learned to sustain it through the noise.

-- Charlie Mitchell is executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. Write to him
at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail post@vicksburg.com.


Anonymous said...

Christopher, what a wonderful testimony to the life you had growing up with your dad. David was a truly amazing person and one I am honored to have been related to for too short a time. He will never be forgotten but live on in our hearts and memories.
Love you,
Linda A

Crescent said...

I'm a friend of Erica's and just wanted to say that your bravery and honesty is uplifting. There is something so beautiful about how you are able to write about your feelings and memories. As sad as it all is there is such a lovely feeling of hope that shines off of you and your family. I admire you all will keep you in my heart and prayers.

Anonymous said...

You and your family are on my mind every day. I've been praying for all of you. Your dad sounded like such a wonderful person!
Email me if you need anything!

Anonymous said...

Christopher--not a dry eye in this Chicago apartment right now. (Can I use that expression when I'm only talking about two eyes--my own?)

Your family is beautiful.

-Erin C., one of Erica's many Chicago friends.

Anonymous said...

I knew David a little bit and for a relatively short time. What you have written makes me wish I would have known him a lot better. It was obvious that he was a special person,I knew that as soon as I met him. Thanks to you, I know more about why and what made him such an awesome human being. Good job Chris, he had every reason in the world to be proud of you...Democrat or not. ;-)

Anonymous said...


What a wonderful tribute to your father. Thank you for sharing.

Warm Regards,

Andy Fleming

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

I see from your Mom that Friday was your bday. I hope you guys were able to celebrate all those years of love you were gifted with from your Dad.

ashleigh said...

Chris, your father was an amazing man! Thank you for sharing this. You and you family are on my heart and mind.

Heidi Mehltretter said...

This is a lovely post and tribute to your dad. An honor to read. The bedtime ritual you describe sums it up - your Dad loved and was loved by the most important people in the world.

Jordan said...

I don't know how I missed this before. Very beautiful - thanks.