One of my favorite memories as a kid is a day spent fishing with my uncle David on Lake Athabasca in Fort Chipiwyan, Alberta. My dad’s older brother, he had come down to visit us while we were living in the northern fly- in community. I remember him allowing me to reel in a fish he had caught, the easy fun and lightness of that day.
I remember the crazy faces and things he would say to make me laugh, always full of bad jokes and big smiles.
I remember the time he decided to visit us at our home in Duncan’s Cove, and proceeded to walk the roughly 24 km’s to our house from Halifax. I remember how passionate he would get when talking about things he cared about, and how he could look at you when you were talking like you were saying the most important thing he’d ever heard.
I have a million memories of David as kid, and though I saw him less as I got older, I also remember the day we had a family BBQ at my grandmother’s house- “You know, Ali-son (as he liked to call me), you get more beautiful as you get older. You’re one of those people who get better with age. We should all be so lucky.” He cared about people. That’s the David I remember.
On March 3, 2011 David was stabbed to death in a home he had been living in for a few years, only hours after having dinner with his son, and learning he was going to be a grandfather again. He was 59 years old.
The man who killed David, Qian Zhang, an employee at Garrison Brewery, was sentenced to 10 years in prison less two months (edited to add: he served far less). Reportedly David was stabbed to death over an argument about a noisy fan. A noisy fan.
"I overreacted to a situation to which I should have known better. I plan to take courses to better manage my temper.”
But the circumstances of his death aren’t what I remember about David, or what I would want other people to.
I would want people to know he was a good person. He was incredibly intelligent and wanted to know about everything. He was curious.
He dedicated his life to various humanitarian organizations, beginning with CUSO as a teacher in Sierra Leone.
He also worked with CPAR and CARE which took him to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola, the Sudan and Kenya, organizations including Oxfam, the Canadian Mental Health Association and MISA and most recently as a Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer position with the United Nations in Sierra Leone.
He was a father and grandfather, a son and brother, an uncle and a friend. He was loved. He was a person who did not deserve to lose his life in the manner that he did. He is missed by his children, his grandchildren, his siblings, his parents-his family.
I think in some ways it has brought our family closer. A reminder of how quickly people can be gone from your life.
I have another memory of David. A few months after he died I had a dream that he and I were standing on the lake in Fort Chip, laughing like crazy with tears streaming down our faces. I don’t even remember about what. Suddenly I stopped laughing and looked at him in horror, realizing he was gone. He just laughed again and hugged me-“I’m ok Allison, don’t worry, I’m ok."
David was something else too, a huge Beatles fan.
And when the night is cloudy, There is still a light that shines on me, Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.