October 4, 1991 – June 6, 2010
David lived his life out loud. In fact, it was his energy and passion for life that makes his death so inconceivable and motivates us every day to tell his story. Just one week before his death, David walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma; a symbol of great accomplishment and great memories. A popular kid and excellent student, David was elected “class comedian” by his peers and successfully completed many AP courses during high school. He was a gifted musician who filled our hearts and home with music.
Whether playing his baritone in the high school band, playing guitar at church, attending concerts, or just jamming out with friends, David loved music. Over the years, he received several music awards, including “Outstanding Soloist” and the “Semper Fidelis” award for musical excellence, given to him just weeks before he died.
The thing that continues to inspire us about David’s life is that he cared about how he lived and he valued people. He was passionate about the outdoors, had so many people he looked up to, and was making plans for the immediate and distant future. David lived a very active life and rarely sat still except to sit in a deer stand or watch a movie with his girlfriend, Carrie. He was an avid hunter and loved to camp out at our farm with friends. Spending time in nature gave David great personal pleasure and he often talked about the moments he enjoyed there, alone with God. Everyone close to David appreciated his witty, sarcastic sense of humor. He had a very close relationship with our youth pastor, loved spending time with his younger brother, and had a deep faith in Jesus Christ. One of the things people will remember most about David is his loyalty and enthusiasm for the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre; something he commemorated with a “4” tattooed on his back shoulder.
David was like any other kid graduating from high school. He was stressed out by life at times and disagreed with his family now and then. The future wasn’t always clear and life wasn’t always perfect, but he continued to have dreams and make plans. He continued to enjoy life. There were projects and events that he was excited about, and he was looking forward to attending the University of Northern Iowa, where he would study business and share a dorm room with one of his best friends from high school.
So…where did it all go wrong? How did a bright kid with a promising future find himself in such a devastating situation?
The days surrounding David’s graduation ceremony and open house were just as anyone would expect. He was on cloud nine and having fun celebrating with family and friends. His girlfriend’s family was having a graduation party for her in the St. Louis area the weekend following graduation, so David left early Saturday morning, driving six hours to join them for the party.
He knew that we would be at the Iowa Barnstormer game that night so we texted throughout the game, checking on scores and discussing plays. He also told us what an awesome time he was having with Carrie’s family, playing with their homemade potato gun, and he insisted that we make one as soon as he returned home. David and Carrie rode back to Indianola together Sunday afternoon, and spent some time at her house talking about the summer. Her family recently sold their home and David was going to mow their lawn until the new owners could move in, so they spent some time getting that plan in place.
After leaving Carrie’s house, David met a group of his friends who were planning on attending some graduation parties together. They were all in a celebratory mood, having just graduated from high school. Apparently, some college students who were home for the summer told the boys about a legal substance called K2 that is smoked like marijuana. It could be easily purchased in stores and a few of the guys had purchased some that weekend at a local mall. Despite a sincere attempt by one of his friends to stop him, David smoked the K2 anyway and ninety minutes later, he was dead.
Unaware of his K2 use, we began to do what any family would do. Immediately and desperately, we searched for an explanation. Why? Why would David take his own life? What warning signs did we miss? Questions spiraled, but answers could not be found.
Two days after his death, on Tuesday afternoon, we learned David had smoked K2 with his friends just before he returned home Sunday afternoon. The more we learn about the substance and read about the experiences of others, the more we understand what happened that night. This knowledge does not bring David back and it certainly hasn’t made our pain go away, but it confirms our gut instinct that David never planned to die that night. David was mentally and physically attacked by the K2, causing hallucinations, unimaginable anxiety, and loss of his ability to reason. If he and his friends had known then what we know now, they never would have smoked the stuff. We are firmly convinced that David would still be alive today had he not smoked K2.
We are a typical family and as any parent of teenagers knows, these are not easy times to raise a family. We’re far from perfect and thought we had all the conversations families are supposed to have…sex, drugs, drinking, texting while driving, you name it. But, we didn’t talk about what we didn’t know. It is so important that parents talk to their kids about the danger of ingesting anything that isn’t fully known and regulated…legal or not. When K2 is gone, something else – maybe even more dangerous – will be waiting to take its place so it is vital we talk to our kids.
Please learn from David’s story. He was a good, fun-loving, Christian kid with plans for the future, and all of his plans and potential were shattered by one bad decision. Nothing in the police investigation substantiates the idea that David was suicidal. Our Chief of Police even wrote a letter to the Iowa Pharmacy Board stating that their investigation showed no signs of David being suicidal. Nothing indicates a lifestyle or mindset that we didn’t know about. One week before his death David was shopping for a computer for college. A few days before his death, he placed a bow on hold at Bass Pro Shop for fall deer hunting season. Just a few hours before his death, he made plans to play video games with his brother later that evening. After his death, when cleaning out the bed of his truck, we discovered PVC parts David had purchased to make his own potato gun.
It’s easy for people to read about David’s death in the newspaper or on the internet and make assumptions about his life and about our family. And, quite frankly, people are free to do so. However, what happened the evening of June 6, 2010 doesn’t even come close to defining who David was. A more accurate snapshot of who he was is the picture of thousands of people standing in line at his visitation, some waiting for 2 to 3 hours, to pay their respects and share stories in celebration of his life. We pray that David’s legacy will be found in the way he enjoyed life and, most importantly, in the lives that might be saved because of his story.
* * *
David’s Story, as told by his brother Daniel
* * *
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may
have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world.” John 16:33