Joel Michael David

1950 – 1983

Funeral Blues (by W. H. Auden)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

The hardest blow I ever felt was the loss of my brother Joel. The night he died, part of me left too. Somehow, as in life, I felt responsible for his premature departure, as if I could have prevented it had I only… done something. What? I have no clue, but I know that for years the guilt of my non-doing haunted me.

Joel and I were as close as two siblings can be. In childhood we were constantly together, and we roamed the hills of Encino before they built houses everywhere. We were explorers, pioneers, Indians, archeologists – and the games we played took us roaming from early morning till the sunset. He delighted in scaring me with tales of ghosts and creatures and who knows what, from the time I was three or four. I am sure that if my parents had only known what he told me they would have had fits.

Saturdays he would approach my mother for a dollar and a ride to the local theater, where we sat through some awful sci-fi double features and munched on Flicks. He had a penchant for strange and scary films, and since he was older, always chose them. I sat through The Nanny with Bette Davis at 6, and The Birds at 8 – along with a host of Crawling Eye, Blob, Creature and other such B’s. Half the time I sat UNDER the seats, or covered my eyes – unless it was REALLY REALLY bad – and then I made a run for the lobby, to wait until I could stand returning to the darkened theater. If I didn’t come back pretty quick, he’d tease me all week long. I hated that and soon learned to sit through almost anything.

Joel knew and loved ALL the Broadway musicals. To that end he wanted to learn all the songs and all the lines to them. When the Movie of the Week showed the musicals, every afternoon and twice on the weekends, he would split up the parts, and by the end of the week, we would sit by the television and each recite, with the character, whatever lines or songs there were. I credit him with the fact that I know all the words to so many many songs. I made afternoon snacks, and we would sit and memorize lines every afternoon, while my mother was in her room, or upstairs painting. Or we would take off on our bikes inventing adventures, or sometimes running into them, head on.

His wit was razor sharp and I was always doubled over from all the sly innuendos. He knew everything and everyone, and I always depended on him for help. I was well known in the family for my absolute non-knowledge of who anyone was, or recognizing names or faces. At parties, we would walk around together and he would whisper to me the details of whoever was approaching – name, spouse, children, etc. By the time they would get to me, I would be ready. They would always be amazed.

When he went to Berkeley, I was so jealous. I would have spent loads of time visiting him, but soon after I left the country. We wrote regularly, although I must admit that his schedule of letter writing was much more regular than mine, and everything he did much more dependable. He made me tapes of late night radio programs, Dr. Demento and Wolfman Jack in particular, so I wouldn’t feel too left out. Whenever I’d return home he always found time to be with me and do things I enjoyed. Just being with him was always fun, because he always made everything such a laugh.

He had spent time with friends that I never knew he did. Even today I am surprised by those who have kind and loving words for him, and recount the time they spent together. He remembered everyone’s birthday and made sure they got something from him – even the children of those whom he cared about. And he was crazy about being an uncle. The last time I saw him was when he flew up to be here for Daniel’s third birthday. He spent all afternoon holding Sara for me while I made the food and cake for Daniels party – when I finally took her back her face was rubbed raw from being against his cheek. Scarcely a month later he was dead, taking with him large chunks of my history, leaving gaps too large to fill. How lucky I was to have had such a thoughtful and kind person in my life – I miss him so!

And so I say to you – Treasure what you have, enjoy the time you have it. Make sure you tell the ones you love that you do, and make your time count. Remember that happiness is found along the way, not at the end of the road.