My oldest brother passed away suddenly, and unexpectedly, a little over two weeks ago. We have just returned from his memorial service in the Northwest. I had spoken to him only that morning, and a couple of hours later I got the news he was dead. We had also spoken the night before, a good, long conversation filled with our usual humor and playfulness about the most serious of subjects.
I so loved talking to my brother. I was devastated by the news. He filled such a large spot in my life, one that I didn’t really notice or understand until now he isn’t in it anymore.
He was a man nearly grown by the time I came along in the family and didn’t live with us on a regular basis. But he always had time for me, his baby sister. We bookended the family, I suppose, he being the first and me being the last.
Some of my earliest memories are of playing with him. He would throw me high, high up into the air and then catch me with a whoosh. I would squeal with that combination of terror and delight you have as a child when you have total confidence in the person you are playing with. He never ever dropped me—or even came close. Sometimes he would let me dip, just a bit further, at the end of the catch, for a little extra thrill. Then he would pull me back up to eye-level with him, look me right in the eyes with a slow, impish grin and say, “Gotcha.” We would do this for as long as I wanted, his strength never wearing out.
I was the first in a long line of children who enjoyed that particular activity with him, including his own children and grandchildren as well as mine, and our nieces and nephews.
As I grew older our playtime became one of mental gymnastics rather than aerial ones. Clever and deep conversations about many many subjects rather than him chasing me to tickle me.
My brother was an interesting man, but he was also an interested man. What I mean by that is that he was interested in the people around him. He never spoke TO you. He always spoke WITH you. He had the rare gift of being fully present with whomever he was talking with—you had his undivided attention during your conversation and his nimble mind could run any particular trail or bend it took.
He loved people and that was evident by the way they responded to him. He reminds me of Jesus in that way. All kinds of people wanted to be around him, wherever he was. And wherever he was, he always found someone to talk with. He took his time with people, and never seemed to be in a rush to be done with them.
Every person he interacted with, whether on a daily basis or just casually, felt that love. It was God’s love, and he liberally planted that seed in many, many people, without ever saying a word about God. You FELT loved by him.
I never heard him trash someone he didn’t like, or who did something he didn’t like. He’d express his displeasure and then move on. No need to continue to hash through it, or judge them, or run them down.
He loved books and reading. Especially anything to do with WWII or science fiction. He could talk for hours about WWII battles and politics and war equipment. He was sort of famous for that among those who knew him.
He also loved witty and cerebral movies and you could carry on a whole conversation with him using only movie quotes. He often would give you a parting of “Be excellent to each other,” or “Have fun storming the castle boys!”
My words can never adequately or fully express who my brother was in his many layers, textures, and dimensions. He can’t be characterized by simply calling him a “good” man, even though he was. He planted good seeds in every person he met. I have the huge benefit of having had lots of them planted in me. It is my desire to let that goodness sprout and grow so that he’ll never be gone. So that through the good seeds he sowed in me, he will still touch and love people who may never meet him on this side of eternity.
The second night after his passing I wasn’t sleeping, my grief was too big. I was talking to God about the whole thing and a small voice rose up from my heart into my mind and the thoughts brought great comfort to me. “Leslie, David knew Me and he is with Me. He is ok. Your conversation with him isn’t over, it is simply postponed. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. How would David say that?” I smiled in the dark as instantly my mind went to the movie quote from The Big Lebowski, “The Dude Abides.”
And with that, I will end this most inadequate eulogy to him. My brother is missed, by me and many, many others. He is absent from the body but present with the Lord. I love you big brother, and I’ll think of that idea in the way you would say it: The Dude Abides. Looking forward to seeing you again!
In memory of my beloved brother, David Kayser