One of my favorite gifts is a rather weighty and sizable prop plane ornament, given to me ten years ago by Joey M., a then nine-year-old fellow actor in New York’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular. He bestowed me with this memento as a final gift during our annual Secret Santa gift exchange. He gave it to me as a reminder of a specific moment in the show, but it has come to symbolize a greater gift I was given by him and so many others. One I try to share as often as possible.
After reading the hundreds of birthday wishes you guys left on my Facebook wall last week in honor of my fifty-fifth birthday, I felt very much like George Bailey at the end of the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Thanks you guys for taking the time to stop by my page to post succinct “happy birthday” greetings, animated GIFs, videos, artwork, and a few pictures from back in the day when I had a much smaller waist and a lot more hair.
David T. Samuels
August 4, 1952–May 27, 2013
The majority of you probably have never heard of Dave, but if you’ve read my posts over the past year, as well as Walking Tall, you’ve felt his impact on my writing.
Dave and I met a little over two and a half years ago via a mutual friend. At the time I took the meeting as a little more than a casual introduction, but when the relationship with that friend hit a momentary rough patch, Dave parceled out insights that helped me work through the transition with our mutual friend. Within a few months my relationship with the friend was back on the right track and my own friendship with Dave developed from there.
Dave shared with me that his life was in transition. We talked about his imminent return to Canada to tend to his mother in Toronto. I likened the angst Dave felt over the direction his life was taking to the way I felt over leaving L.A. years before. We both saw our exoduses from New York and L.A. as unexpected and accepted them as having some greater purpose in our lives.
Dave’s assimilation into life in Toronto went smoothly. He picked up the mantle of caring for his mother and brother (who had special needs) with aplomb. The move to Toronto proved to be a boon to Dave in another way, it helped lessen the severity of Dave’s respiratory issues.
Once I decided to self-publish Walking Tall, Dave’s excitement knew no bounds. He celebrated all the milestones with me along the way—the development of cover concepts, cover photo selection, arriving at a final title page design, venue choice, and the like. When I picked up the first bound and printed proof of my book for the launch party, I rushed a copy off to him.
You can imagine my shock and dismay when he gingerly informed me of copious errors that jumped out at him in the text. I was devastated. Friends and I had graciously combed through at least half a million times, but still mistakes slipped by. With the launch party a few days away, Dave talked me off the ledge and ever so casually revealed that he was an English major in college and offered to pore through the proof one last time.
I accepted his offer, and over the following week Dave scrutinized all 272 pages to within an inch of their lives. I couldn’t help but notice how respectful he was with of the text and took care not to add his distinctive cheeky sense of humor to the work. Lord knows if he hadn’t, every other paragraph would’ve been hysterically funny. Dave and I walked me through the edits for hours at a time, and when all was said and done Walking Tall made its debut online and at the launch party with relatively few blemishes and my reputation still intact.
Dave saw his gesture as no big deal, but in no uncertain terms he saved my ass. And in doing so, he taught me a very important lesson about to become a better proofreader of my own work. And I made it a priority to let him know how much I appreciated his efforts.
2013 began as a year of challenges for Dave with the passing of his brother Stephen and intensified respiratory issues. It’s weird how life works out, just a couple weeks ago a few of Dave’s good friends visited him in Toronto. He was elated to have them visit, despite the limitations of needing Oxygen. That was the last time he saw them.
Just last week, after several days of testing, Dave phoned me in tears to tell me of his approval for a lung transplant. He felt an overwhelming sense of relief and renewed optimism about his condition. And when I spoke with him yesterday, I had no inkling that it would be the last time I’d do so. I woke to an email from his account sent by cousin announcing his death.
Although, the total amount of time I spent in face-to-face interaction with Dave probably totals less than twenty-four hours, the impact he’s had on me will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Thanks to Dave’s unbridled love of life and wicked sense of humor, I know that he wouldn’t want to be sad over his passing. And with that in mind, one quote comes to mind—
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
Any typos or grammatical errors present in this post exist solely to ruffle Dave’s angel wings. Anything less would be disappointing.