Remembering David Hawkins

When & Where David Died

David died July 24, 2000, two days after his parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration. We knew that if we flew to Tennessee David might not have the strength to make it back to California, but he was determined to go. When we arrived at his parent's house he was completely exhausted from the trip and he never recovered his former energy level (which was low at that point anyway). But he said, "I'm in Tennessee," (with just a little triumph in his voice), "I'm with people who know me, and I'm happy."

What follows are exerpts from the Memorial Service held for David in California on Tuesday, August 1st. In keeping with Well philosophy, permission to use the postings from a private Well conference were obtained from their writers both for the service and for this Memorial page.

---- Corinne Cullen Hawkins

WELL Members' Thoughts

This is a selection of comments made in a private conference on the Well. The conference was created to provide a place for people to combine efforts to help David and Corinne. Topic #4 was where these caregivers could talk about their own thoughts and feelings. All of these were read aloud at the memorial service.

Topic   4:  Thoughts and feelings
#12 of 278: Eric Rawlins     Fri Jun  2 '00 (17:42)

I see a theme running through this topic which matches my experience of David: "never knew him all that well, but he was always there." When he and I both worked at Sybase, we used to take lunchtime walks around the lake together. A more mystifying person I don't believe I ever met, but he was always quietly there to do whatever seemed to need doing. Those of you who hang out on the River will know that he has almost singledhandedly kept that place operational technically these 5 years. I think that's what has always set him apart in my mind: In this community, full of eloquence and brilliance and people strutting their intellectual finery, here was this guy who just did stuff for you.

#13 of 278: Tina Loney     Fri Jun  2 '00 (17:46)

I've known dhawk for ever, ever, ever so long -- since I first got on the WELL in 1986. He literally dragged me into my first WELL party -- at Lila Forest's house in San Rafael. I looked in, saw all the people, started to turn and walk away, and this hand reached for me, and this voice said, Hey! Are you here for the WELL party? I'm David Hawkins! Without that, I would have left.

#33 of 278: Shannon Clyne      Sun Jun  4 '00 (00:01)

I have been continually distracted by David's situation.

I believe that where there's life, there's hope. But I also believe it is best to deal with the facts.

My sense of my history in this western world I live in is that we dont' deal with death very well. My distraction with David happens at a couple of levels. I am self-absorbed in this reminder of my own mortality. I am amazed at our ability in this "virtual community" to come together, be honest, deal with death, and be continuously human.

And then I emerge from my self-absorption, and I try to be with David. He is facing death the way he lives. I hope someone will say that about me one of these days.

#117 of 278: Rita Hurault      Fri Jun 23 '00 (11:53)

This is from David's post on his webpage from today. I found it so moving, so typical of dhawk, and so much what I think of as the way I hope to approach my own dying:

Yesterday the hospice nurse said that when they work with new patients there is often a lot of denial on the patient's part that they're going to die (you have to have a life expectancy under six months to get into the program), but that my acceptance has been amazing. I think part of it is that I can feel what's going on in my abdomen and I know it's not good. Spontaneous remission of all the tumors would be nice, but until something like that happens I have stuff to do -- wrapping things up. If I live past my current life expectancy I'll buy a new car, some clothes, and get on with a new life. But at the moment it's been nice to clear up some of the stuff that's accumulated around here.

I wish I could gather up dhawk dust and sprinkle it on my dying dad.

#220 of 278: Matthew McClure       Mon Jul 24 '00 (20:45)

In the 15 years or so that I knew David, I never saw him really angry. Sad, philosophical, amused but almost always understanding other people's foibles. Thanks for being such a good example, dhawk. Go with God.

#222 of 278: Fred Heutte      Mon Jul 24 '00 (23:40)

When I first met David, the Well was very young but was already old as an online institution. It was early 1989 and the Well staff was Cliff, Tex, Nancy, David and Robin, with Patricia as part-time bookkeeper and me on occasion working on the billing software.

It was also my first work experience in California and the culture shock was a little surprising. After all, here's the august ruler of the technical domain, dhawk, sitting in this drafty old remodeled boathouse clacking away on a keyboard propped up on his lap, with his feet perpetually up on the desk. I'd been around programmers before and even some certified Wizards, but this was quite something to see.

Unlike many systems people (and I have been there and understand the motivations for this), David was not one to hide in a cubicle or office away from the swirl of daily activity. The same could be said for his online presence. The often-prescribed but rarely seen notion of managing by walking around -- that was David's approach. I learned a lot from observation.

Another thing I learned from dhawk was a particular approach to user assistance. He was not above such dreary stuff, the way many Exalted Systems People are. It seemed more like the higher calling, in fact. He went out of his way not only to provide answers to user questions but to provide context and sometimes a little prodding. I don't think of him as a great technical wizard, but as a great teacher. In the competitive realm of programming and online activity, this is a rare thing.

As I've said several times before, I basically owe my current career to his advice offhandedly one day in 1991 to look into this language perl (before Larry Wall decided to start capitalizing it). dhawk was very good at assessing needs and dropping helpful hints in a way that would stick rather than appearing as some type of gift from the system.gods

David provided some emotional stability and a broadminded approach to technical support during a time when the Well as something of a community was starting to realize its potential. These are not considered differentiating factors in the oh-so-worldly view of today's net, but he made a lasting impression on the internal dynamics of this system. And that is why I chose the Thoreau quote from his web page in my posting in News -- it describes the role of "carving and painting the atmosphere" of the Well.

I don't think any collection of quotes can truly summarize a person in all of their complexity and views and interests, but dhawk's quote gallery is a very interesting read and I recommend it. Here is someone who truly appreciated good writing but was not hemmed in by the high-and-mightiness of the academic perspective. dhawk, ever the practical one, who really was a dreamer.

Nothing pleases me more now than to mention the Grateful Dead tickets. Back then, most of us Well staff and a good portion of the Well itself were intensely devoted (but still critical with the insight of the good sports or theatre fan) Deadheads. dhawk too, in his own way. On several occasions I ended up with a extra ticket or two, and as we headed out for a show at the Frost, the Coliseum or Shoreline, I'd be sure to check and see whether David was interested in going ... and he was. Not that it was hard to get tickets, you just had to plan ahead and order them when the mail order date came. But I think by then David had reached the point where his relationship to the Dead scene and music was improved by giving up the need to be at every local show, and instead to be ready when the time comes.

#225 of 278: Eric Rawlins      Tue Jul 25 '00 (07:45)

I should mention also that David has pretty much been the River, both as tech resource and as kind of its spiritual leader. They're mourning pretty hard over there.

#237 of 278: Corinne Hawkins     Wed Jul 26 '00

David was a very reserved person. He had a poster of Donatello, a teenage mutant Ninja Turtle in his office, in the country, leaning on a wood fence, wearing a straw hat and sucking on a straw. That was so David.

I learned a lot from him, too, especially about having a serviceful attitude. He always wanted to help. Whenever I'd bring up something I wanted or wanted to do his most frequent response was: "I live to make you happy."

Being of help was what he was all about. It wasn't until very late that he realized sharing something of himself was a kind of help, too, but I think that was part of the reason he started and kept up the website.

He was a lot of fun to live with. I've always had problems with depression and even small things would get me down, but David had a way at looking at inconveniences, frustrations, etc. that put a funny spin on them and I learned how to do that from him. It's been a valuable skill.

One time David had given a speech to about 300 people and afterward someone came up to me and said I must be laughing all day long, living with this guy. I said, "Yep. It's just chuckle, chuckle, chuckle..." And the more I thought of it, the more I realized it was true. We would laugh about the day before we fell asleep and laugh about what we were going to do when we woke up.

#255 of 278: Bob Bickford      Wed Jul 26 '00

Greta reminded me of a dhawk story the other night, when we were talking about the couple of times that he worked for her at Dead shows.

There was an occasion when the WELL was closed to logins for some kind of maintenance, and dhawk (the sysop at the time) modified the message that you got if you tried to call the WELL to say something like "The WELL is down. In the first set tonight, the Dead played..."

That still makes me smile, after all these years.

#257 of 278: Fred Heutte      Wed Jul 26 '00

David obviously strove to live a "life in balance," although in his own particular way. I've been mulling over this quote that appears in his .plan here as well as on the web site:

"Douglas Steere remarks very perceptively that there is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by nonviolent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful."

-- Thomas Merton, "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"

Pastor's Words & Eulogy


Friends and family, brothers and sister, we are gathered here today to honor the life of our dear brother, David Lee Hawkins, who has gone home to be with God. We are here to be with each other in our pain and our grief, we are here to share our support for one another, we are here to send our prayerful support to his family and friends near and far who are with us this evening in prayerful if not physical presence, and we are here to celebrate a life well lived and the assurance of his peace with God.

In this service we will hear from many of the people who were touched by David. Look at this beautiful altar which Corinne has assembled here before us. We have here many aspects of David's life. You may find yourself reminded of a part of him by looking at it. Please feel free to come forward after the service and pore through it all. Corinne has also assembled a stack of T shirts on the table to your right. They are not all the same size as David did not stay the same size throughout his adulthood. Look through them and if there is one that strikes a particular memory or makes you laugh or speaks to you, please take it home with you.

Throughout this service, you may find yourself remembering a moment spent with him in person or on-line. You may find yourself chuckling at the unique way he looked at the world. You may find yourself weeping for the loss that we have had. All of those feelings are welcome here in this service. But mostly let us remember that David touched our lives in ways unique to him and for that we are eternally grateful.

Prayer of Invocation

In honor and in celebration of the gift we have been given in David, let us be in worship together and let us pray:

God our comforter, you are a refuge and a strength for us, a helper close at hand in times of distress. Help us so to hear the words of our faith that our fear is dispelled, our loneliness eased, and our hope reawakened. May your Holy Spirit lift us above our natural sorrow, to the peace and light of your constant love; through Jesus Christ our Lord,


I can't pretend to have the kind of intimate knowledge of David that many of you have. The depth of feeling here is amazing. I give thanks again and again for the life of David Hawkins and I can't help but know that the worlds we run in are better and healthier because of the way David touched us.

I remember David as a very kind soul with a quirky way of looking at the world. A technician, a theologian, a faithful man who was devoted to his friends and especially his family as witnessed in his trip to Tennessee, but also a person who loved to look at the challenge of the edge. I was amazed the first time I went to their house and found it spare of furniture, but full of books, dinosaurs, action figures and comic books.

When we had a Dolores Street event you never knew what he would be wearing. I remember him and Corinne showing up to see Charlie in a Shakespeare play dressed in Renaissance capes. And his T-shirts. I even saw him wear a tie once.

He was our church's webmaster. He served with quiet wisdom on our Pastor-Church Relations Committee and our play group. He was also a student minister and ran the senior Center. I never knew until this week how extensive and how rich his web conferencing community was and how integral a part of the Well he was. But he was never one to toot his own horn. He was a humble man who just wanted to be a good person and a servant of God. As Corinne said, "he just wanted to help people." And that's what he did. God, is that what he did.

I've known David for five and a half years, but like many of you I feel I really got to know him in these past few months. David gave us all a great gift when he let us into his life and his struggles with cancer. He showed us, in his matter of fact way, that life is about relationship and connectedness. Even though he said very little in person and really preferred to be in the background and on the periphery, he was always there and you could always count on him. When his health status report came up, he connected people across the country and imparted bits of his wisdom and his humor and gave us permission to deal with his illness head on. He didn't beat around the bush about anything. And you know, he was surprised that people were so moved by it.

He knew his time was limited. He also knew he wanted to make it to his parents' anniversary in Tennessee. And he did it. And once he did, he was able to let go. One of his co-workers told me today that he graced us all with the gift of being able to say goodbye and thank you.

When Kim and I first heard the news of David's death, we spoke about this scripture from Mark's gospel. It was early in Jesus' ministry and he was doing a bunch of healing in and around the northern parts of the sea of Galilee. He was tired and he just wanted a rest. So he and his disciples got into a boat and pushed off shore. While the disciples were a-buzz about what had just happened in town, fearful of the way Jesus had upset the religious authorities, Jesus went below and went to sleep. A storm came up and the disciples started to scold Jesus saying, "don't you care if we die?" Jesus just stood up and said to the wind, "Be still," and it was. It's like he told the wind to take a break. In his calm and cool way Jesus all but said, "don't worry so much. I've got it all under control." And that is the part that reminds me of David.

When there were people and agendas all swarming around him, he just stood there in the background saying, "It's okay." Or he might not have said anything, but he was there and you knew how rock solid he was. It showed in his determination. It showed in his adamant need to go to Tennessee. And in Tennessee he told Corinne, "I'm with people I love and I'm happy." And to the end he was taking care of everyone. He kept telling people to take a break. Relax. I've got it under control. There might just be a storm happening out there, but not here. I'm calm. I'm okay. Now, take a break.

I imagine David, looking at us, shaking his head, that comedic smile on his face itching to break the tension with a one-liner. I can see him wondering what all the fuss is about. But mostly I see him looking at us and saying, "take a break."

I've got everything under control.
Take things one day at a time.
Don't sweat the small stuff and remember it's all small stuff.
Don't lose faith.
Help people.
And God, may your will be done for me and everyone.
And I see him with Jesus saying, "I have not left you comfortless for lo I am with you always even unto the end of time. So take a break."
We miss you brother David.
We give thanks for the myriad ways you touched our lives.
Because of you, we are connected and we are better people.
You helped us.
Now you take a break.
Rest in peace.
We love you and we say to you thank you for gracing us with your presence.

Brother's Tribute

Johnny Hawkins surprised his family (and everyone else except the pastor) by flying in from Tennessee for the Memorial. Here is what he had to say, composed on the flight:

Preface to the Preface: this is how Denise, Jim, and David would have talked if they had not fled the south.

Let me preface my remarks by thanking all of you for attending the memorial to my older brother, David. I am thankful that David's life and his struggle for life will inspire me until death or disease render me incapable of remembering his devotion to duty, family, helping others and living a good life.

During the short duration of his illness, I never once heard him curse God, the Creator of the universe, curse cancer, or lapse into despair and self pity. He accepted the disease and its tremendous physical costs as a truly professional gambler would accept a poorly dealt hand from an ill-shuffled deck of cards. He studied the odds, learned the subject well and played it out the best he could.

His apology to Corinne just prior to his passing from this imperfect world was only that he could be here for her. He sought to honor our parents by returning to Tennessee to celebrate their fifty years of love and devotion to each other, knowing all too well that his days were numbered and that he was running out of tomorrows. He was a brother that I could look to, but only by looking up to. I still haven't changed my opening view to the world wide web. It still opens two or three times a day to and for the last two weeks, I have scrolled down looking for new entries, then sadly realizing any more entries will have to be from those who have been left behind. It was pretty tough to see one suffer in text delivered in bits and bytes transmitted @ 28.8. But he was optomistic and realistic. It was much tougher to see him suffer in person, that could really make a person pessimistic, even fatalistic. But I'm so thankful for a God which has supplied us with the patience, the love, and grace to endure this loss.

I guess my final choice for the entry would be a quote attributed to the savior of southern agriculture and a noted inventor. The famous botanist, George Washington Carver, stated over and over that how far you go in life is determined by how tender you are with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with those striving, and tolerant with the weak and strong, because some day in life you will have been all of them.

Thank you for hearing me out and let me close with a request for those of you who are willing and capable. Please remember Corinne, her family, my parents and our families and those who have also suffered with this loss of my brother, in daily prayer. David studied grief and loss and he knew the effects could be great and last for a long time. I think he would have wanted that. Yeah. I know he would.

--- Johnny M. Hawkins

Poem (selected by David)

This is a poem that David selected for his own memorial service. (The author is unknown.)

"Miss Me a Little But Let Me Go"

When I come to the end of the road
and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little -- but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me -- but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone
It's all part of the Spirit's plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know
And transform your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me -- but let me go.

A Few Links

Some people created tribute or thank-you pages for David; here are a few of the links, and some others important to David and Corinne.

[ Back to dhawk's web page ]

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