Posted by: ritagone | May 5, 2010

Remembering David Brantingham

This past week Michael and I lost a very good friend, David Brantingham, to cancer.  David was married to my very close friend Sue.  Both of them had lost their first spouses to disease and then found one another about 14 years ago.  God gave them a wonderful blending of two families and a great time together traveling, golfing, attending church and many gatherings with friends and family.  Over the last weeks of his life, David was surrounded by his three children, his grandchildren, his step-children, step-grandchildren, and friends who took the time to tell him how much he meant to them and how loved he was.  His memorial service is this weekend at our church, and people are coming from as far away as China to honor his life and his love for others.  And most of all his walk with Jesus that never waivered or drifted from the mark.

Every time I look at the captivating white playhouse in my backyard – the delight of all the children who visit us, including our own four grandchildren — I will think of David Brantingham, and I’m grateful for that reminder.  A few years ago, when this delightful structure was falling apart because – even though it was one of the things we fell in love with when we bought this house 9 years ago – it was badly built, with no foundation but just stuck haphazardly onto the dirt area.  (Our house was a model for its floor plan in our development, which explains the haste with which some of the construction was done: make the outside look good for potential buyers but don’t worry about the internal structure.  But that’s a whole other Rita’s Ramblings for another time!)  With years of sprinkler water permeating the wooden bottom of the structure – because no concrete foundation was ever poured – it was only a matter of time until it would start to fall apart and present a danger to our grandchildren and the other kids who loved to hang out in it.  So when Michael decided to tear it down and start all over (like a Beverly Hills tear-down!), David Brantingham was right there to help him.   For many days hammers and drills and saws and other tools were heard in the backyard as the two men worked at their miniature construction job.  In fact, we commemorated their work together with a little plaque on one of the supporting wooden pillars: Built by Brantingham/Warren, 2006.

When I look at my house and the fact that the exterior still looks good after being painted a few years ago, I thank David Brantingham, who would show up in his painter’s outfit (he was once a professional), complete with painter’s cap and coveralls, earlier than even the homeowner (my husband) wanted to begin work.  They would paint and talk and laugh and stop for lunch when Sue and I would bring lunch to “the crew.”  Then, back to work!  This saved us literally thousands of dollars and has provided some of our favorite memories of David.  He was always there to help when and if he could.  And to make the job a little easier, a lot more fun, and certainly long-lasting because he was a perfectionist who could never do a half-hearted job.

That’s the kind of guy he was.  His faith was solid and unshakeable.  And he lived it out every day.  That’s why so many are coming from so far to honor him this weekend.

Sue, his wife and now his widow, has been a good friend of mine for about 20 years now.  We have traveled together, bought property together (not something you want to try unless you really love and trust the other person, considering all that can – and often does – go wrong), and lived life together in many ways.  Our lives and our families are intertwined and hard to separate out.  Sue has the most abiding faith in God’s goodness and care.  It runs deep and strong, and that strength bubbles to the surface when she’s confronting the kind of experience she has recently gone through: losing yet another beloved spouse to death and disease.  She can giggle and be silly with the best of them, but when it comes to walking the walk and talking the talk, she’s the best I’ve seen, bar none.  It’s not denial and it’s not ignorance, which is what some might accuse her of who don’t know the God she worships; it’s a firm conviction that God is good and loving and that, belonging to Him, nothing else can harm you no matter how overwhelming it sometimes feels.

Look around you.  Who are you watching to see if their lives measure up to what Jesus told us to do?  It’s not that we are supposed to trust the actions and attitudes of mankind, because that will often disappoint us.  It’s that we are to shine like lights taken out of hiding and placed – in the darkness – in a spot where all can see, for better or worse, and that the “for better” is what we should all strive for.  And when you see it in someone else, someone that you have the privilege of watching up close and personal, and they do it, they manifest that light in a way that makes you proud and even a bit envious, you do come away with the feeling that this is something, then, that you could do too if called upon.  And called upon we can almost guarantee will happen to each and every one of us.

So today my heart is thankful to David Brantingham for the lessons God showed me through him: faithfulness, kindness, friendship, laughter.  He was a man who loved what he loved with great enthusiasm, whether it was his God or his wife or children or grandchildren or basketball or football or the computer game Bookworm!  (David and I were both Bookworm addicts; however, neither one of us had gone to a 12-Step Program for this, because neither one of us had gotten to Step 1: recognizing that you have a problem.)  He wasn’t a complicated man; he loved Hometown Buffet as much as others love the fanciest restaurant in town.  He loved to putter in his garden and just bask in God’s goodness and created beauty.

And my heart is thankful to Sue, my friend who has shown me what it is like to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with dignity and faith and strength of character.  It’s good to be able to say, “If she can do it, I think I can do it too,” whatever the “it” may wind up being in the future.

Annie Dillard, one of my favorite authors, wrote: “I know only enough of God to worship him, by any means ready to hand.”  That’s my prayer for you – and for me — this morning: that you and I know enough of God to worship him, by any means ready to hand in our own circumstances, our own lives, as different as they might be from one another.  Because ultimately, that’s what we’re all supposed to be doing with our lives.


Have a wonderful rest of the week and glorious weekend, wherever you are!

Regards,  Rita


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