Sunday, June 10, 2007

Remembering David Atwood

He embraced life with all the joy and enthusiasm of a child; in their four short years together, he showered his wife Caye with all the love that will last her a lifetime; he was a fiercely proud father who strove to see only the best in his children; he fell trying to defend his daughter from a brutal attacker and took the blows that would have been for her; he fought valiantly for that life that he loved so much, and he fought long and hard before he lost; he touched the lives of many Filipinos and they were all the better because of him. That is the David Atwood I will always remember.

I met David through this column. It is but fitting that I’d say goodbye to him here.

I never expected having this column would bring me such a sweet reward as having David for a friend. He was truly a sweet Welsh gentleman who came to the Philippines in his twilight years to marry a widow with five children. He took them into his heart, Caye and all, made them his own.

He first emailed me last December after reading an article I wrote with which he identified with. We became cyber friends since then. What would have been our first meeting turned into a comedy of errors when he invited me a day earlier for the Christmas party that his family was having. He lamented saying … “Olga, what can I say? I am 70 years old. Please forgive this old man.”

We regularly chatted online and discussed almost everything under the sun. But mostly, he despaired over us Filipinos. He saw so much promised in us and was bewildered at our stubborn refusal to better ourselves. These sessions were almost always ended when he would write … “I have to go now Olga. Caye just woke up and I have to cook her breakfast. She is so beautiful even early in the morning. I love her so much.”

And that’s the David I will always remember with the most affection … the passionate and devoted husband who still wrote and hid love notes for Caye to find among her things even after four years of marriage.

David is no longer with us. What would have been his last words? I knew him only for a very short while, but I knew him well enough to know that if he could, he would want to say these to all of us, most especially to his beloved Caye –

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free
I’m following the path God laid for me
I took His hand when I heard Him call
I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to work or play
Tasks left undone must stay that way
I found that place at the close of the day.

If my parting has left a void
Then fill it with remembered joy
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss
Ah yes, these things I too will miss.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow
My life’s been full, I savored much
Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief
Lift up your heart and share with me
God wanted me now, He set me free.

David Atwood died in Wales. His daughter Jayne will be sending his ashes to Caye. There will be a memorial to celebrate his life. As he requested, his ashes will then be scattered in his favorite places here in Dumaguete.

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