I woke up in a hotel bed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, checked my phone. There it is, on my screen
My breath was gone for a second. The next thing I knew, I burst into tears. My head went blank, an overwhelming amount of sadness and shock came over. I was in disbelief but I also knew it’s true.
Actually, it wasn’t a surprise. David was diagnosed with cancer a few months back and I learned about it accidently while visiting him in his home of Tecumsch, Michigan, the USA. I was concerned for months. I prepared myself for the worst.
David and I met when I was in my third year of college. I got a summer job teaching an English summer camp, and was paired with a foreign teacher. That was David. He was in his 60s at that time. He was an interesting elderly person, I thought to myself. He loved learning about other cultures, thought it was wrong that society expected women to shave their legs. He loved taking candid pictures and put his foot in it, like it’s some kind of signature. He had a journal that he kept, and sometimes he asked me to write a few words in it, or sign it. David was so overweighed that he always had this stick with him, with pictures of his beloved in his family and things that he valued. He was a harsh judge when it came to American politics and was a vocal humanity supporter. Most of all, he was a kind and caring person whose actions brought so much light and courage to others.
So, we became friends that summer.
I call him Grandpa David.
When the summer camp ended, we spent a couple of days in Chengdu and parted our ways. The year after, he came visit me in my university in Beijing. I was on the campus radio team and I invited him to be my guest speaker. When my class had a graduation trip, David came with as well.
College life soon became a chapter written and the new chapter began. One that was so much harder. It was a decade of experiencing love and heartbreaks, uncertainty, hopes, confusion and excitements. All these big moments, David was there saying two things:
You are a brave young woman and you will get through this.
There were so many times that I cried on the phone talking to David. He was such a good listener. He always made me feel that I wasn’t as much of a loser as I thought. Grandpa David supported me through some of the worst moments in my life.
When life was going well. He genuinely was happy for me and always says: I am so proud of you! So proud that he would leave long comments on my Facebook update and tag everyone he knew. I don’t always know if what I do make any sense, but David’s happiness reassured me that it does.
He’s a big advocate for mental health. He’s lived through many episodes of depression himself. Because of that, he was able to support me when I started experiencing depression and was completely at loss of what’s going on.
In my eyes, he’s a hero. It’s never easy to live a life with depression. He had many episodes in his and he marched on. I have lots of respect for old people just because they have made that far despite of all life’s challenges. I have lots more respect for David for always being himself, and never gave up.
I finally went visit him last year, 2019, in his home town of Tecumseh, Michigan, the USA. He was 78, and still the same person that I knew. Well, half of the size than a decade ago, but it’s still him. I landed at the Detroit Airport and there he was, with his sister Mary, coming to pick me up with a cute sign with my name on it.
It’s a small town where there’s only one main street. I stayed with him in his humble apartment. He’s a man with a very simple life. He didn’t think its necessary to buy a new pot, or a soap holder, or a bathroom mat. I went to the Dollar General and got them for him. he thought it was so unnecessary, but later he told me “I really enjoy the new things you have gotten for me. They do make a difference”. That made me smile. I love going to Dollar General just look at the items that people use here and how interesting that was to me. David joked about wanting to throw a rope on me to drag me out of there. Simple man as he was, he went get a bed in his spare room because I was coming to visit. He asked me if the mattress was comfortable. It warmed my heart.
My days there were wonderful and full of happy memories. We went to McDonald’s just because I wanted to do the drive through. So we did, twice! Because the first time, we forgot to pick up the food. It was one of the best trips I had in my life. Everywhere I went with David, people seem to have heard of me already. If they have not, David made sure they did by telling them our stories in China and my little adventure of mental health, in the bank, at Mc Donald’s, at the icecream shop, the vintage shop, yoga studio, the furniture shop. He was so proud of me that I wonder if I actually live up to it. I choose to believe him though, because he would tell me that I should!
He took me to meet many of his brothers and sisters. I loved going to sister Mary’s for tea and brother Don’s to visit his family of 2 grandkids. I tagged along with his big family and went to a grand kid’s musical play one day in town where all the kids dressed up in costumes and played instruments. Sister Mary, David and I also went to the library for the ghost