*** Offered on November 19th in Frederick, Maryland. ***
Hello. My name is Frank Guertin. On behalf of my sister-in-law Charlotte and my mother Kathy, we thank you for joining us today to celebrate the life of my brother, David. Your presence honors and comforts us during this difficult time. It has been an extraordinary week.
In my family, we honor someone through the honest telling of their story. We laugh together about the struggles we have had and cherish the joy we found as we tried to love one another in all of our imperfections. So I want to spend our few moments together this afternoon doing that for my brother.
Will you pray with me please?
Heavenly Father, I give you praise for bringing us together this afternoon. You are a gracious God, abounding in love and full of compassion.
We invite your Presence into our midst as we remember David. Thank you for blessing us with his life. Our hearts are heavy with his passing. We need your comfort and peace now and in the days and months ahead.
We trust in your goodness and mercy. Thank you for giving us one another in times like these.
In Jesus’s name, amen.
When I reflected on my brother’s life this week, it reminded me of a very familiar parable from Jesus called “The Prodigal Son.”
In Luke 15 it reads:
11 “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
When I think about my brother’s life, it’s OK to use the word ‘prodigal.’ But instead of one giant moment of coming back, David had many moments of celebration with his family and friends. His disease of addiction would often take him into the pig’s pen, but he would soon fight his way back to loving relationships. And we would kill the fattened calf every time because those were moments for rejoicing.
God is a generous God. He loves beyond our human expectations. He gives beyond our deepest desires. And He restores the broken people of the world over and over again. It’s part of what makes God marvelous.
My brother knew God well. He was a deeply spiritual man who needed restoration again and again. I like to think of my brother as a homeless Christian, someone who followed the ways of Jesus but could never live in the community of the faithful very long. For David, it was hard to feel worthy enough to live in God’s house and to enjoy the love of others. But I am confident God held my brother in His hands his entire life, especially when David couldn’t feel it.
In this past week, his prodigal journey came to an end. As I sat with him and watched the breath leave his body, I kissed him on the forehead and closed his eyes. I want you to know that there was no hint of the pig pen in his hair or on his skin. And as I lifted my head from his, I smelled that final fattened calf being prepared in heaven for the son who had finally … finally come home.
Song – Amazing Grace
- Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
- ’Twas grace that taught my heart to
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
- Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
- The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
- Yea, when this flesh and heart shall
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
- When we’ve been there ten thousand
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
Now I want to share with you a few memories that capture the spirit of my brother. If you knew him long, you saw the amazing good that was in him, even in the darkest moments of his life.
David was a tender man. I saw this with animals while we were growing up. He loved them. From our hamster Ichabod to the numerous cats (Luther, Dexter, Buttons) that shared our home over the years, he really connected with all creatures great and small. Nature was a wondrous playground for him. He loved to hike, fish, and share creation with those he cared about. The Berkshires gave us so many places to explore and enjoy.
He was also tender with his fellow man. I cannot count the number of times David cared for the outcast and the stranger. He loved the marginalized, the downtrodden, and the forgotten. He cared about people and tried to restore dignity to those who really needed it. When David was doing well, he became one of the most generous people I have ever met. He gave to people no one else could see, the invisible, silent ones that needed a loving touch in their lives. He understood mercy and practiced it with others.
He was also tender towards Charlotte. She was the great love of his life. The hardest part of our journey this week was seeing that marriage end in this tragedy. Charlotte and Dave fought for their relationship to be better. They deserved to see fruit come out of that struggle. But God called David home before they could experience that satisfaction.
David was a good kid. That’s the phrase my mother said over and over growing up, no matter what trouble he was into at the moment. I also remember another phrase, you little shit. That was an equally good description. When my mother was potty-training him, Dave used to hide his poo and expect her to find it. It was like some sort of bizarre Easter egg hunt. Obviously he obtained the skill, but mom was going to pay the price. He was a free spirit in so many ways. Mom also tells the story of being on the phone for a few minutes when we lived in an apartment of a triple decker. David was two then. By the time she finished her five minute conversation, David had crawled down all three flights of stairs and was playing with other kids out in the street.
David and I grew up fatherless. So we had a series of stand-in dads that tried to love us in those gaps. Looking back, it was a funny patchwork of people. One was Charlie, or Ching as everyone called him. He used to take us fishing a lot. I’m not sure he really knew what he was doing honestly. We never came home with fish.
Another was John, who was still living out his glory days as a high school athlete. One time he took us up to the top of Pittsfield State Forest so we could cross country ski our way down the main road at break neck speeds. It’s amazing Dave and I didn’t go flying off the ledge. It was crazy dangerous. And then there was Ron, who used to take Dave on motorcycle rides. They had a special bond. Ron passed away from a heart attack and I remember the sadness he felt knowing he couldn’t see him anymore. And of course, we were blessed to have a large extended family. Everyone chipped in a bit, helping to shape us into the people we are today.
Dave followed me around some after I left Massachusetts. I couldn’t see it back then, but it was hard for him to lose me as I went on with my adult life. I guess I should have known that though. We were very close as children. We shared the same bedroom for 10 years. I can remember many stormy nights when I would hear his voice across the room.
“Are you awake?”
“I’m scared of the thunder.”
“Do you want to come over here and sleep with me?”
And we would share the bed until the storm passed.
You may not know this, but David was not the most organized person. Our childhood bedroom was a little war zone between two personalities. He had his side with everything strewn everywhere and I had my side, all situated and put away. In some ways, that bedroom on Elm Street captured the nature of our relationship. It was give and take, forgiveness and mercy, everything complementing everything else. I wish I could have appreciated how beautiful that was back then. It pretty much annoyed me though.
When my wife and I moved to Tennessee, he lived with us in a very small one bedroom apartment for a short while. Our cat, Miccia, did not like the arrangement. One day she chased him into the bathroom, standing guard at the door menacingly. My brother had to escape out the bathroom window in terror. But to Dave’s credit, Miccia was a pretty nasty cat we later put down. In the same apartment, he offered to fix our washer, only to flood the entire living room floor soon after. At that point, my wife Nikki made it clear that 3 Guertins in a one-bedroom apartment does not a happy life make.
David was brilliant with machines. If it didn’t work, Dave could fix it. Sometimes he fixed things by the book, so to speak. Sometimes, he understood a machine so well he could find a repair shortcut that wasn’t exactly what the manual recommended. He was a maverick that way. When he lived in Nashville, I ran with him on a few jobs. It was like being in the whirlwind back then, running all over God’s green earth to fix hot water heaters and dishwashers and whatever else Dave could charge for. His genius earned my respect. I couldn’t do what he did. I just wasn’t smart enough.
But there was something more when it came to his work. He loved helping people, most of them anyway. Some customers were worth billing double because of their attitudes! But when David saw a genuine person in need, his heart softened almost instantaneously. I loved watching that happen on a service call. He would give his talents away because he wanted to bless some honest soul who needed a boost. He was so compassionate in those moments.
He was also incredibly musical. Music was a big part of his life from early on. He played a mean guitar and was self-taught. He could hear how music was put together and then strum it out just so. I was very jealous of this, too. I even gave him my 12-string Yamaha while I was in college once I realized Dave had a gift to play and all I had were sore fingers.
Dave liked living on the edge. From bikes to hot rods to whatever else he could make go fast, he loved to race things. And he paid the price a few times. He spent months in traction after a motorcycle accident and suffered pain from that injury for the rest of his life. He also bought a nice ’67 Camaro, which he promptly drove off the road into the woods.
Losing him yesterday brings all of these wonderful memories back to my mind. I loved my brother and the whirlwind that often came with him. He was hilarious, wise, kind, ridiculously intelligent, adventurous, and beautiful. The disease of addiction clouded his light far too often and the world became a little smaller whenever that darkness set in.
Now I’d like to offer anyone who would like to an opportunity to share a short story about Dave that has stayed with them, especially ones that help us celebrate the life he lived.
(Stories from family and friends)
Thank you for sharing those memories. As we draw this service to a close, I want to read a passage from the book of Isaiah.
This comes from chapter 41:
This comes from chapter 41:
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
I am glad David is soaring now, that there is rest for him, that he runs with the wind. We will miss you, David.
On behalf of Charlotte, my mother, and myself, thank you again for sharing in our sorrow and joy.
Let us pray:
Let us pray:
Father, we commit this moment to you. Thank you for the love that is here. Be with each of us as we go out. Tend to our hearts and help us find new paths of hope and healing away from this loss. Thank you for letting us know David. He was a blessing to our lives in more ways than we could ever know.
In Jesus name, amen.