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The Legacy of David Blain

June 29, 2015

When I got to Kennewik on Friday, June 5th, it was later than anticipated. The drive along the winding Columbia River was a peaceful one. It is one of my favorite stretches of interstate I’ve driven on. I was trying not to think too much about where I was going, though I admit I was nervous. His passing hadn’t really hit me yet with full force, and I’ve never been to a feneral before so I didn’t want to have any expectations. Plus, I knew Dave wanted a celebration of life, not a funeral, so I turned the tunes up and tried to enjoy each moment.
I reached the hotel around five o’clock and saw mom looking through the window above where I parked my car. I had missed the visit to the grave site where Dave’s ashes were buried, so we went to his house to meet Carla and Ryan – his wife and son – and Carla’s side of the family for some food. It was very strange being there in his absence.

Nearly three years ago, I stopped through and stayed at the house for a night on my way to Portland where I was moving. I remember sitting at the table on the deck in the hot Eastern Washington sun. Dave kept refilling my glass with his favorite Nut Brown Ale from Ice Harber. He was going through his ipod, showing me some of his favorite ACDC, and Bad Company tracks, and of course a Jimmy Buffet song or two. He even played songs he had from a few of the bands I’ve listened to for years and that he too really enjoyed. We recounted memories from Twin Lakes, and Hoopfest, and when he and his family powered through a snow storm to visit us in Wyoming for Thanksgiving years prior. I think it was the last time I saw him before his tumor and it is something I will always remember. It was just what I needed for my last stop into the uncertainty of moving to the city.

“You’re so fortunate,” he told me. “You’re going to have the time of your life single in your twenties in Portland. I always wished I could have done something like that. Don’t take it for granted.”

After his celebration of life that next day, Amanda, Jessica, James, and I went to the Ice Harber where he always took me to when I visited. He even took me there when he wasn’t feeling well and struggling to communicate last fall when my band came down to the Tri-Cities to play a show. I’m so thankful he was able to see us play before he passed.

“Did you know David Blain?” James asked the guy who sat us at out table.

“Rings a bell,” the guy said.

We showed him a picture and told him we had just come from his funeral. The look on the man’s face when we told him is something I will never forget. You could sense his heart skip a beat and his eyes nearly tear up. He bought our beers and told us that he was sorry and that Dave was a great man.

“He told me he wasn’t going to becoming in anymore,” he said with great sadness.

I think this sums up the legacy of David Blain. He made an impact on everyone he came in contact with. I remember being on a fairy with him and the family on the way to Twin Lakes. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember him striking up conversations with everyone around us and his brother Tim rolling his eyes saying, “He has to make friends with everyone.”

I think the celebration of life was exactly what Dave would have wanted. You could feel his spirit in that room as stories were recounted at the podium about Dave’s antics as a child and as an adult. There was a definite sadness in the room, but it was overpowered by the love and joy Dave brought to his every day life.

When the food was gone and the beer half drank, the party moved outside by the pool. Everyone seemed happy. Childhood friends who hadn’t seen each other in years and years were swaping stories and goofing off. It makes perfect sense that this was the vibe. Dave was always doing things to bring people together. He seemed to always be investing his money on toys and gadgets he could share with others – from his boat, to his RV, to his man-cave, where he always made sure you had a drink your hand. If not for him, I wouldn’t have learned to water ski. I am not a huge fan of being in cold water long. But, I remember sitting toward the back of his boat watching him go back and forth over the wake on one ski. He looked so cool doing it. I wanted to look at least half that cool. I wouldn’t even have a computer to write this on if not for him.

It’s a strange thing to think about, him not being at any more of the family gatherings. He won’t be at Amanda, Jessica’s, mine, or Ryan’s weddings. It’s a shame my kids won’t be able to experience his Washington State Cougar-crazed stories, or hear him talk about the first time he saw ACDC in concert. But, as my mom says even in situations like this, everything happens for a reason. Who’s to say what is good and what is bad? His legacy will live on forever and I hope I can live life with a similar sense of freedom and love. I wrote a song about a year ago that has always made me think of Dave and Tim. It’s about living life relationally, something I know Dave excelled at. In the song, the chorus is, “I don’t care if we’re here all night, just sit back and have another beer, just sit back and tell a story.”

Toward the end of the night of his celebration of life, James and I made a third attempt at using the hot tub past curfew. The girl who was working the desk, a different one from the previous two attempts, came out and told us we weren’t allowed to be there. Inspired by one of the stories told earlier in the day about Dave’s salesman skills, I walked up to the girl determined to sell her on giving us some time.

“Just give us ten minutes,” I said. “I promise we will be quiet. My uncle just died and his funeral was in this building earlier today. All we want to do right now is sit quietly in the hot tub for ten minutes and we will be gone.”

She paused and thought about it.

“Okay,” she said. “Ten minutes. I’m sorry to hear about your uncle.”

She turned around and went back to the desk.

I have Dave to thank for those ten minutes, and so much more. He truly was a great man.

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