When a buddy dies, it’s time to mourn — and change

David Brewer, with writer’s rescue dog, Kismet, in 2013. Photo by Woody Weingarten

David Brewer, near the end.

David Brewer, a cherished friend for two decades and a surrogate brother for the one I never had, died a few days ago.

I’m fragile.

In deep mourning.

And reevaluating my life and priorities.

David’s passing didn’t come as a shock. He’d been battling a melanoma for years, and the resultant metastasis for months.

But death — despite my belief the soul, or spirit, transcends it — feels so damned final.

The empty hole it leaves can seem infinite.

It’s likely you have a friend like David, someone you could be even warmer to no matter how close you have been.

On his deathbed, my psychologist/consultant buddy, still boyishly good-looking despite being sixtysomething, and still a pigheaded St. Louis Cardinals fanatic, revisited his spiritual feelings.

He re-told me of his “awakening” at 19, when he’d deduced that spirit was an embodiment “of compassionate love” rather than the anthropomorphic being others worshipped.

Though the Novato resident had been brought up an ardent Christian and I a Jew, we’d found a joint comfort zone.

I miss him.

But I consider myself lucky — blessed, in fact — to have had him in my life so long.

As a loving, trusted friend.

As a colleague in a men’s group for 10 years.

As a pet sitter in my San Anselmo home for Kismet, my purebred rescue mutt.

I have fond memories, too, of others who’d been essential parts of my life but, in Hamlet’s words, have shuffled off this mortal coil. And there are many: My parents and grandparents, a woman I lived with in Philadelphia, two first cousins who died in their teens.

All told, death in double digits — more than sufficient for any lifetime.

But David’s death has shifted my perspective.

No longer am I irked by the constant road construction on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in San Anselmo.

Or the dog poop I barely miss while walking Kismet in Creek Park.

Or the incredibly long wait at The Hub’s traffic lights.

Instead, I linger longer to watch two newborn fawns in my yard, to catch the wonderment of a sunrise from our deck, to see toddlers frolic in a Ross or Fairfax playground.

My wife, kids, grandkids and friends unsurprisingly have leapt anew to the top of my what’s-important list. I vow to phone and email more.

Yet retain my right to not text.

I choose to elevate my sensitivity at Marin Man to Man, my support group aimed at helping guys whose partners have breast cancer or another life-threatening disease.

And to spend added hours with the 11 friends facing severe health challenges.

I intend, too, to fully appreciate that I’m comparatively healthy — still breathing and able to pound my keyboard long enough to cobble columns together.

Did David’s death, or life, mean more than any of the 8,000 killed in Nepal’s late April quake? He and I’d often pondered that kind of question, always concluding life anywhere was equal to either of our own.

I’ll remember him as an imperfect perfectionist who left behind a lengthy string of wives, girlfriends and broken hearts, but moreover that he was himself even in his last moments — exuding life and love.

Shortly before being hospitalized, my pal, the compleat organizer — he was forever arranging a last-second movie group or dinner klatch or something-else cluster — had corralled a small group of friends. In a sense, it was his last hurrah.

He knew the prognosis.

My 8-year-old granddaughter traipsed along. David, child-less, had attached himself to her years before but decided on the spot that day she’d be his “date” for the party.

So he showered her with attention, including the hugs for which he was famous, and bought her a huge cookie.

Too soon afterward he proved that death can incorporate dignity.

And courage. And joking.

He and I and my wife, Nancy, reminisced and laughed several times during our final conversation.

I doubt if he’d primped for our appearance, but he undeniably did for at least two women who followed us individually.

In tribute to his tangible influence on my life, I hope to assuage my sadness with an amped up zest for living and doing. And to continue fighting for the environment, for the homeless, for equal rights.

I’m sure David would approve.

Contact Woody Weingarten at http://vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net