Lives pass before most people learn to look underneath the surface of things and personalities, beyond blonde hair, straight teeth, flashy cloths or sports car; beyond misguided interpretations. To David's intellectual and physical vision, superficial surfaces were as transparent as the panes in a kitchen window. And during the few weeks every summer when he and I would teach people to speak Latin at summer workshops, we'd take long walks – and David loved to walk – and discuss how the best teaching methods are often the opposite of what common sense seems to suggest. Almost ten years ago one of these walks was in the mountainous regions of southern Italy. As our feet slowly took us up a narrow road that snaked its way up a small summit, I shared a metaphor with David. And you need to understand, a well wrought metaphor was to David's ears and mind, what a excellent vintage is to a wine-connoisseur's palate. This turned out to be one of his favorites.
Our winding road was flanked by almond trees the entire two miles up. ''David,'' I said, ''what everybody says about life being a tree is preposterous. They say that our lives are like trees filled with leaves. As we grow older those leaves begin to fall. And that when a life ends, the leaves have all fallen and the tree withers away. But they've got it backwards,'' I explained. ''Indeed each human life is a tree. When we are born, the tree is as leafless as we are naked. As we grow and acquire knowledge, leaves begin to appear."
"Each accomplishment, new friend and good deed generates its leaf on our tree. The trees of our lives, if we cultivate friends, contribute to the beauty of this world and show kindness and respect to our fellow passengers on this small blue planet, they, these trees of us, will spread their branches, reach to the heavens and be filled with thousands of green leaves. And when we die, if we have lived well, our friends and family will find comfort and sweet memories in the shade of our trees and their thousands of leaves.'' I'm not surprised that David liked that metaphor more than any other. Though his modesty would never let him admit it, I suspect that down deep he intended to leave us all with a majestically elegant Carolina Pine filled with the leaves of life.
And I want Dan, David's brother, and Bill and Dorothy, his mother and father, to know that from an apartment in Stockholm, Sweden, my seven-year-old daughter Lovisa, 12 year-old son Axel and 16-year-old daughter Freja and my wife Maria have lost a friend; but I know that even from the snowy regions of Scandinavia, my family can see a towering Long Leaf Pine with its roots way down in the ancient soils of David's beloved Carolinas. David lives on within all of us.
And to his Latin speaking friends,
Luge´te, amici, luge´te medullitus hi^c. Nam funebri ha^c flebili poma^ deducta^ et ritibus solemniter actis, Nos Davidis memoria^ freti excitatique nostrum colloquendi morem nec non una^ conversandi melius et, inprimis, humanius collere poterimus. Ubi alii suis in provinciis zelotypia^ incensi et errores aliorum insectandi desiderio correpti neque amicitiam neque veram humanitatem collant, sequamur nos mores Davidis. Fruamur amicitia^ intima^ et ha^c nostra^ lingua^ communi utamur ad vitam iucundissime et urbanissime, ut ipse David solebet, agendam. Sit non modo Davidi terra levis, verum potius sit eius memoria, sit eius humanitas, sit erga omnes eius mirifica benignitas, sint haec omnia nobis exempla diligentissime observanda, perinde ac alto in mari nautis Stella illa Septentrionalis refulget.