Beforehand, I personally thought this sounded uncomfortably pathetic on my part but it’s all the truth. I couldn’t hold back both my tears and laughter while I gave it during the service. Many people that I didn’t know came up to me afterwards to say that they related to it, so maybe it’s all right to share it here too.
Good evening everyone, I’m DA’s niece. DA was many things to many people, and we were privileged as kids to see the part of him that was most playful and childlike. So tonight I will share with you my fondest memories of him – some of which are a bit embarrassing, but that was never one of his concerns.
At three years old, I was meeting him for the first time that I could remember. I had been told that he lived in [another country]. When I woke up after an hour-long car ride at the hotel where he was staying, I reportedly said, “Nasa [AC] na tayo?” That set the tone for the rest of our interactions. Everything was always just a little bit surreal.
The distance between our families meant that we could only see each other rarely. We looked forward to these visits so much – they were always one of the highlights of our year.
At four years old, as our families were saying goodbye after dinner, he jokingly said that they were going to take me home with them. I said nothing but I was secretly disappointed when I realized he wasn’t serious.
At six, his family took me and my brother to a week-long trip to Boracay. I got a fever and was too sick to even eat. He and my aunt got me to eat a few rainbow cookies and praised me. And he didn’t say a word of reproach when I threw up rainbow vomit on white bedsheets.
He and my cousin were a sort of tandem act. He’d make a joke, she’d complain about how lame his jokes were, and he’d make even lamer jokes about how lame his jokes were (“My jokes are so lame they need wheelchairs!”)
When I was 13, he gave me a solar panel, when everyone else thought I should be interested in clothes and shoes. He was one of the few adults who took my interest in his work seriously. There wasn’t a single time that he was too busy to talk to me, or a single email to him that went unanswered.
Ten years ago, he left two posters and his day ID from a conference at our house. I still have them. I loved all the traces he left behind whenever he stayed there. I was always so shy and quiet around him. But I was always so sad to see him go.
I remember him joining us for ice skating. He strapped on his skates, went out to the middle of the ice and said “This is how you do it! With grace! And beauty!” Five seconds later, he fell down.
He was just as much at home under a tin roof eating off banana leaves with his hands as in a tuxedo eating dinner at a five-star hotel.
He was just as nice to the maid and driver as he was to his business associates.
I would sometimes hear our families talking about their future plans and how he planned to retire here. And I was so happy with the thought that maybe someday I would be able to see them all the time.
He took on every role he could to take care of the people around him and to leave the world a better place. There is nothing more I could have asked of him, except to have stayed with us a little longer.
In his life, DA started so many things and worked so tirelessly. His humor and kindness were a light in the cynicism and selfishness of the world. All of us here tonight are proof of the impact that a single life can have on so many people. He has left himself in all of the people he loved, especially his family – his kindness and nurturing spirit in my aunt, my cousins who have become so much like him – and as long as we choose to carry on his values and pay forward his love, he will never be gone from us.
Go ahead and say that death is a thief
But also say that the fact of it
Is the soil from which life grows
– andrea gibson