This evening I've kinda had the wind knocked out of me.

For those of you who don't know, Jean and I own a writers' community website which used to serve tens of thousands of active writers.  Of all these writers, we've had the privilege of actually meeting only 4 of them face-to-face.

One of these writers is David Tanguay.  Dave was one of the first 50,000 writers on our website, earning him the badge of 'founding member.'  Years ago, I would correspond with him by addressing him as 'Mr. Tanguay' because I had such respect for him.  He continually told me that I should refer to him as 'Dave' and I eventually gave in.

Over the years, I've learned that Dave served me and my country in the Vietnam war.  I've never discovered what actually happened to Dave during his service, but it was apparent that he has never fully recovered from this war.  It was just two months ago that his family contacted me to spread the word for prayer for Dave as he had gone off his medications and they were worried that they'd never get him back.

The most incredible thing about Dave was that his writing was so spot-on.  I've had several people contact me saying they thought Dave was some sort of shaman, or maybe an angel in disguise.  His writing was so wise and he often wrote things which were not only perfectly written, but perfectly timed.  His writing was what people needed to read, exactly when they needed to read it.  This was certainly the case for me.

Yesterday, January 27th, Dave sat outside his Northern Florida home to take in the sun.  In the afternoon, his brother who lives next door came over to check on him, and found him sleeping.  He asked Dave what he was still doing outside, and Dave opened his eyes and said something resembling 'good-bye' and then he was gone.

It was in 2010 when I took my family on summer vacation to Destin, Florida, and I contacted Dave to let him know we would be passing close to where he lived.  I told him if there was any way possible, I would like to take him to lunch so we could meet and talk face-to-face.  Dave responded and said he would do whatever he could to make it happen.  It turned out that the best place for us to meet was at a McDonald's about 15 miles from his home, and there, I got to introduce my family to him and we had the most delightful conversation while we both ate McFish sandwiches!

The man that I met that morning didn't put on a great presentation.  I remember he had hair growing on the bridge of his nose.  I doubt that he looked at himself in the mirror very often.  What I found  was what I expected: David Tanguay was indeed an incredibly kind and understanding man.  I got the sense that he lived his life just trying to get through each day, one day at a time.  Who could ask for anything more than that?

This isn't surprising if you consider him to be a man suffering from severe PTSD 40 years after returning from war.  What is surprising is that this man has entertained and encouraged tens of thousands of people through my website.  You see, Dave has had nearly 700,000 people read his writings, which have elicited nearly 100,000 comments.  To put it in perspective, the most popular New York Times columnists would have to write an article a week for four years to receive that many comments, and this was David Tanguay, Vietnam veteran, who sometimes struggled with separating his imaginations from reality.

Occasionally Dave would have someone leave a nasty comment on something he wrote.  I would offer to remove the comment as I really didn't want him to get discouraged in his writing.  Dave would always tell me, "no, just leave it be.  They felt like they needed to make a statement, I'm sure it's good for them to get it off their chest."  Where did Dave come up with such an understanding of others?  I don't know, but I'm trying to emulate that in my own life.

My life is richer for having known David Tanguay, and I will never forget him.  And as long as I have anything to do with it, his writing will be available online for everyone to benefit.

I'll leave you with the bio that Dave wrote for my website.  Good-bye, Dave.  I miss you already.

"Dave Tanguay was born on November 8, 1948 in Westbrook, Maine. The 10th child of a family of eleven children. Served in Vietnam in the 60s, he became active with the youth movement of that day on completion of military duty. Now retired and living in Florida. (still believes in the young.)"

3,588 - 31 - 0 - US