Knowing David

By Melissa Face

Knowing David

“Do you mind?” my father-in-law, David, asked as he reached his hand towards my protruding belly. I told him I didn’t. Why would I mind if he wanted to get as close as possible to his grandchild-to-be? After all, he probably wouldn’t see us again until months after the baby’s birth.

“How are you feeling?” David asked me. I told him I felt great – just a little tired from the ten-hour drive. I actually considered not making the trip at all this summer. Traveling from Virginia to Vermont seemed a bit too much in my sixth month of pregnancy. But something told me I should go.

It was a Wednesday afternoon when my husband and I visited his father. We went to his house because he didn’t feel up to meeting us for dinner. For nearly three hours, we chatted about the pregnancy, the baby’s name, work, and, of course, the cancer.

David had just completed seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. He was finally feeling the effects – fatigue, weakness and nausea. The doctors said he would. “I’m thinking about going ahead and retiring,” he told us. “I’m going to weigh things out this weekend while I’m in Maine.”

We hugged him goodbye and walked towards our car. “See you at dinner tomorrow,” I said. He smiled and waved while we pulled away.

The following night, we met at a restaurant in Shaftsbury, owned by one of my husband’s high school friends. My sister-in-law, her boyfriend, my husband and I arrived first. A few minutes later, David and his wife, Kim, were seated.

He came in the room smiling. I thought twenty-four hours had made a tremendous difference. He seemed stronger, well rested and healthy. An inaudible sigh of relief escaped our bodies. Appetizers made their way around the table and eventually, entrees arrived. We ate and talked and laughed.

“Melissa looks just great!” David announced. “She’s glowing.” I smiled and thanked him for the compliment. “Well, I guess I’ll be making a trip to Virginia in November,” he said. “I want to see Evan as soon as he is born.”

Our evening continued with dessert and coffee. David and I drank decaffeinated. I was watching my caffeine intake during pregnancy. He said caffeine made his heart race. David asked us if we wanted anything else; he seemed to want us around that table just a little while longer.

Moments later, we said our goodbyes in the parking lot. He made plans to come see our baby. We vowed to visit again the following summer. We hugged and left.

Two days later, my sister-in-law called to tell us that David was in the hospital. “The doctors think it’s pneumonia,” she said. “They’re putting him on a ventilator.”

Days passed with periodic updates. With each glimmer of hope, there was another setback. Still, we never expected the doctors to tell us they had run out of options.

My husband and I made it to Vermont in time to be with David on his last day. He was heavily sedated – most likely unaware of our presence. He looked nothing like the man I had seen only weeks earlier; the change in his appearance was shocking.

The doctors disconnected David’s ventilator while his wife and children stood at his bedside. Our hands held his as the machine was silenced. “He has passed,” the doctor told us. “I am sorry for your loss.”

And what a loss it is – the loss of a wonderful husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, friend and co-worker. I am simultaneously angry over this world’s injustice and saddened by the fact that my child will only enjoy stories about his Grandpa Face – not time with his Grandpa.

What stories will I tell him? I will tell him that Grandpa Face was excited about his arrival and couldn’t wait to meet him. I will tell him that Grandpa was a happy, generous person who loved his family, the beaches of Maine and a nice glass of wine.

When my son is older, I will show him the picture of Grandpa Face that sits on Daddy’s dresser. I will tell him that it is a picture of one of the kindest people I have ever known. I will tell him that Grandpa Face was a person who added joy to people’s lives and never took anything away.

I will explain that knowing a person like David Face only makes one richer and better. I will tell him this as we walk hand-in-hand along life’s rocky coast, savoring every family dinner, enjoying each conversation and holding on to every moment. Together.

About this writer

  • Melissa FaceMelissa Face lives in southern Virginia with her husband, son and daughter. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Email Melissa at

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