May 2, 2014
DAD’S MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO DAVID ALLEN MULDER
The Conversation In My Head
On the drive over here today I was having this conversation in my head with David. I knew we were coming to the funeral parlor. I also knew neither of us was too thrilled with the idea. So I said to him, look, we both know there is no way out of this. But it’s really not so bad. Everyone you love will be there: your Mom, Joanna, the family and all your friends. And we are all going to be honoring your life at this memorial service.
In my mind David said to me, “Dad, what do you mean? What is a memorial service for?” Well, D, that is a very special occasion when everyone gets together to preserve the memory of a person. Some of your family and best friends are going to share their favorite moments about you today, D . I am going to tell everyone the story of how I became your Dad. Then I am going to tell them how later in your life it happened that you and I became best friends.
Also, our friends and family have all been asking me what they can do to help. And at first I did not have any answer. Heck, I didn’t even know what I could do myself except cry. But I know what to do now, because your memory has caused us to take action. We are here today to begin to carry out that plan, which will preserve our memories of you and help others at the same time. It’s really a beautiful plan that your Mom, Joanna and I have come up with.
So that was my conversation with David on the way over here today. And what I would like you to do is join in on the conversation with me and Mr. D, as I liked to call him. When I finish in a few minutes, I am going tell you how David’s family has decided to preserve his memory, but first, let me set the stage for you. So okay, let’s go back to the beginning.
How David Came To Be Named
Let’s start with how David came to be. No, not that part! I am talking about how he came to be named David Allen Mulder. Okay, last name Mulder: not much choice about that––pretty straightforward.But David Allen—where did that come from? He was named David after David Bransky: Susan’s mother, Ellen’s father. That brings us to his middle name ,Allen, which came from my Dad, his grandfather.David was born in Chicago at Prentice Hospital. Both of his namesakes saw him on his first day, as did many of the family members who are with us today. Date of birth was May 13, 1983. Susan and I always told David that the day he was born was the best day of our lives. That is how we felt about it then; that is how we feel about it now. David Bransky and my dad were men that put their families first, and David, as you will hear today, followed in their footsteps.
Our friend Leslie Kittenbrink is going to share some stories about David’s early childhood days, so I am going to skip ahead and tell you about David’s favorite thing to do. I hope you saw the pictures here today of David standing at the sausage grinder with his apron on. He started helping me make sausage at about age 5 and helped me make it every year thereafter. You see, my grandfather Stillwell was a butcher, and I worked for him. He passed on the art of making sausage to me and, in turn, I passed it on to David. Making sausage was not only his favorite thing to do, but if we think about measuring his accomplishments in life, I am positive this accomplishment outweighs all of his others. How do I know that? Well it is because you can calculate it. It is a matter of record.I tried to calculate how many tons of sausage we have made over the years, and I came up with a conservative estimate of 4 tons. Yes, I really mean 4 tons of sausage (8,000 pounds: 25 years x 320 lbs average per year). What did David like about making sausage? Well, he liked to eat it, of course. But he also liked it because we made it together with family and friends. He liked every part of this family tradition that goes back to 1921, some 93 years of sausage making, with 25 of those being David’s years. Each year, when he sampled the new batch, everyone would wait to hear his assessment, and each year D would say, “This is the best batch ever, Dad.”
If you like sausage and you live in Chicago, chances are you are also going to like football. David loved football, and I won’t be the only one to mention it. But I want to tell you one story about David that made me laugh out loud when it happened. David, Joanna and I all had season tickets to Northwestern Football games with our family friends: Jim, Josh and Becca Phipps. We bought tickets under the family plan, meaning we sat in the cheap seats in the end zone. We sat there for many seasons and one day, when David was about 16, his friends Jess and Jen were sitting with us, two very cute girls. Northwestern got on a roll that day and racked up 30 points. In those days the tradition was that the cheerleaders and Wiley Cat would get down and do a pushup for each point, while the crowd would tick off the number of points as each pushup was performed. Northwestern scored again, wow, 37 points from Northwestern. We were up about 20 rows. All of a sudden David jumped up, ran down the steps to the fringe of the field, got down and whipped off 37 pushups to the count of the crowd. Jen had her camera with her and ran down to take D’s picture as he was doing the pushups. I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen.
I remember taking David to college with Susan and Joanna. He was such a great guy and big part of our family that we were all kind of depressed he was leaving (he wasn’t depressed–like most young men he was itching to be on his own). So we dropped him off and went on a vacation trip with Joanna and I remember the first hundred or so miles none of us said a darn thing. What we didn’t know was that David would soon begin to suffer the effects of schizophrenia.
The onset of the disease is usually in the late teens and early 20s for men. What is schizophrenia? It is a brain disorder which affects 2.5 million Americans, and 24 million people worldwide. The symptoms affect different people differently, but for David he started to hear voices. The more stress he was under the more the voices spoke. And it was clear the disease was making life very difficult for him.
Even with the best professional help, it took a long time to diagnose what was happening to him and to treat the disease effectively. The medicine reduced some of the symptoms, but it never made the voices go away. They could come at any time—day or night—and frequently they were telling him that something awful had happened to his Mom and Dad.
This is a really terrible disease, because its onset is usually in the late teens, like it was for David, and he was able to remember how he was before it surfaced. He summed it up beautifully one day when he said to Susan, “Oh, Mom, I miss my original self.”
Though neither David nor I wished for this disease, there was one good thing that came of it. It just happened that because of it he lived with us through most of his twenties, and during that time we had so much fun together that we became best friends. It was quite an honor. He did make progress, especially these past 4 years when he was able to have his own apartment and live independently. He was so happy and proud about that.
Joanna spoke to David’s courage the other day. She said every day David would wake up knowing he would have to deal with these voices, but he got up every day, didn’t complain, and went about living his life the best he could. During this same time period, while the disease was affecting his thought process, he kept going to college, finished his junior year and made the dean’s list. Despite the voices, he was able to do this because he had a phenomenal memory.
David was strong. He took his medicine, which was administered through a shot from a large needle in his arm. His arm was always sore the next day, but he didn’t complain; he went to take his shot every other week. Susan spoke to the medical staff where he had been going for the past four years, and they told her through their tears how much they loved David and how they will miss him.
David had this mental illness for the last 12 years. During that time we learned through living with him and his disease just how important mental health is and how many gaps there are in the mental health system. So what can we do about that?
Please Share With Us in the Family’s Plan for David’s Legacy
In that conversation in my head with David, I said our family had a plan for what we can do to keep David’s memory alive. Susan, Joanna and I were guided by two things. First, David loved to help people. Second, he loved Evanston. He loved the fact he graduated from ETHS, where he made so many lasting friendships, as you are about to hear. Earlier this week we met with the Evanston Community Foundation, a group that looks to provide resources for good works aimed at helping all young people make the most of their talents and overcome the obstacles they face as they grow up. With the help of ECF we will be able to remember David by helping others while providing him with a legacy. The family has set up the David Mulder Mental Health Memorial Fund. This will be ECF’s first fund specifically aimed at improving the mental health system. Please consider joining us in honoring David’s memory with a donation to the Evanston Community Foundation 1007 Church Street, Suite 108 Evanston, IL 60201, or online at evanstonforever.org
One of David’s friend said to me a few minutes ago that the thing he liked best about David was that he was a unifier. He introduced him to new friends he would have never had but for David bringing people from different walks of life together. We see that diversity in this room today, and on behalf of Susan, Joanna and our entire family, I thank you for all being here. We all feel your support and appreciate your love for our David throughout his lifetime.