Goodbye David – my brother and childhood hero

My older brother, David McLain, died suddenly of a heart attack on August 18, 2016. He was only 51 years old and none of us saw this coming. He was a force of nature, my big brother, I already miss the hell out of him – right down to his more stupid jokes. I can still just about remember the sheer joy of me and David rolling down the hill in a big cardboard refrigerator box that my mom picked up from Sears. This is how I intend to remember him for the rest of my days.

Here, I have written out the eulogy I gave at his funeral, or as close as I can get to what I said as I only had written a portion of it at the time.

Me and David
David and I at John and mine’s wedding in 2008.

David was born on November 9th, 1964. I don’t know, because I came later, but I imagine he came into this world determined to live and wailing his head off. I imagine he was really trying to tell my mother a joke so she wouldn’t be in so much pain, and get them to laugh him into the new world.

He was born to Verna and Howard McLain – Verna from Elizabethton, Tennessee; Howard from Michigan. She’d only recently come back from 4 years in Brazil, he was a chemical engineer, war veteran, PhD – together they produced one of the most intelligent, creative, enthusiastic human beings to ever share this world with us or as my Dad might have said “Boy that guy’s got a lot of energy”.

As a kid, like an adult, David never sat still. Surrounded by a band of boys, who are in many ways also my brothers, he played basketball with Chuck, baseball with Mark, ran with (or from something they’d done) with Jono, played “Butts up” a game that only David could name and invent with me, John and Molly.

As a kid, like an adult, David was the speaker of truth. He wasn’t scared to tell anyone when they were lying – teachers, parents – despite this being a bad idea.

As a kid, like an adult he had a gentle, loving soul. He was my protector, he was my hero. He saved me from drowning when I was a kid, he saved me from falling out of ride onto the pavement at the TVA&I fair and I know he’s done the same for so many of you.

As a kid, like an adult he was determined and intelligent. He wanted to play guitar, he practiced for hours and hours. He practiced so much that my parents had to buy him a set of headphones so the rest of us could get some peace. He played the trumpet, he practiced for hours and hours, so much my parents had to buy him a mute. And math, well maybe not math, math he could always just do.

David also had some hard times but always worked to sort them out. When he almost died when he was 19 of Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, I am half convinced he came of it only because he was determined to brush his teeth. When in his early 20s he drank too much and ended up in the hospital for it, he was determined to stop and he did. David had a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and then god at MSc in Mathematics, both in about 5 years despite the almost dying and his bad bout with alcohol.

He got a job in computer programming before the rest of us knew what that even was. Then he started graduate school at the University of Maryland and gave me his car when he moved. He was so determined that car was fine that he didn’t believe there was anything wrong with it, even when it caught on fire.

He left graduate school to go back to programming and then along came Elinore. He was determined for her to have a good life, he was determined to be a good dad and I think he did that too.

As a kid like an adult, he was determined to laugh. He’d dance, he’d sing, he’d perfect a corny joke, just because he was determined to make us all laugh too. He made me laugh as a kid – mostly at inappropriate times such as now. He used to throw me down the stairs because he was determined this was fun for me. He made us laugh in church, at choir practice, at Boy Scouts, at the gas station, all the time, everywhere. He was determined to bring joy into all of our lives.

About Sylvia McLain

Girl, Interrupting aka Dr. Sylvia McLain is a bio-physicist in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford (UK), but she blogs in a personal capacity. She is also a proto-science writer, armchair philosopher, amateur plumber and wanna-be film-critic. You can follow her on Twitter @girlinterruptin
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3 Responses to Goodbye David – my brother and childhood hero

  1. So sorry to read of your loss but that’s a beautiful eulogy.

  2. Betty Craig says:

    Great tribute to your admired brother, Sylvia. David probably would have addd a few more examples. 👏👍🏻

  3. Teresa Gryder says:

    Sounds like he was a lot like you. I didn’t know he was so young. Makes it even more sad to lose him. I know he will live on in you, long as you stay in this world. It is good to read you praising him. Praise is part of grief….to recognize and celebrate all that he was to you… Hang in there.