Dad was and always has been my biggest hero and role model. Although losing him hurts more than I could have ever imagined, I really can’t help but also come to terms with just how fortunate I was to be born from a man of such character.
My dad wore many caps, and I’m not talking about his fire helmet, sun hat, or even the royal purple leopard print cowboy hat he wore for Halloween. I’m talking about the roles he filled with great distinction to make sure Austin and I had every opportunity to succeed.
One of those roles was that of a teacher. To this day, I can still hear him telling me, “Treat others how they wish to be treated.” and “It was only a real mistake if you didn’t learn anything from it.” My favorite was, “The best investments and bets you can make are on yourself and your family.” He taught me principles that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and emphasized the importance of integrity and standing for what’s right, regardless of the personal outcome.
Of all his lessons, I think his most powerful and moving one was something he didn’t realize he was doing, the lesson he taught by example. We watched him work a full shift at the fire house, only to come straight home to 12-hour days under the Arizona sun on his farm. He adapted and streamlined his operation with every passing year. We watched him treat people with respect and genuine kindness, not because it was potentially good for business but because that was just his genuine authentic self. I watched him display toughness and strength time and time again, which ultimately is what pushed me towards a career in the fire service. I remember him pulling over to help strangers in car accidents we witnessed on the road without hesitation.
David was as tough as they come. Not many people go a week without realizing they were bitten by a rattlesnake, but hey, the plants needed water. He took that fighting spirit and that toughness with him in fighting cancer. He fought so hard that sometimes you really couldn’t believe the condition he was in. To give you a point of reference, in September, after his brain surgery, the doctors said he would have a tough time making it to Christmas. But that wasn’t for him. He got right back out there, hopped on his favorite John Deere, got back to work, and got his tomatoes planted in March. For a while, I didn’t understand why he did it, why he didn’t change his work habits given the circumstances. But I’ve come to realize it was his final lesson through example and probably the most important one yet. He showed true resiliency.