Davey, My Brother

The sweetest and most talented man I think I’ve ever known died of cancer on Sunday. My brother-in-law Dave was 58. In Derek’s family of six kids, Dave was #4.

As a Lisa-come-lately to the family, I didn’t know Dave best, of course. That would be sister Barb, #6, whose devotion and support of her brother through his whole life was steadfast and beautiful to witness. The whole family came together during his illness with a “Dave first” perspective.

But we had a wonderful sibling-in-law-ship. He lived on Gabriola Island, BC, for the entire time I’ve been a Botten. Derek (#1) and I visited his rather remote and gorgeous island in November 2018, when we were on our way to Palm Springs from Victoria.

Me, Derek and brother Dave in a selfie on the shore of the island

Dave came “home” every summer to jam with the family at a party thrown by Rob, #2. Everyone in the clan plays instruments and/or sings. (Derek plays cowbell.) They named the band Bottenville, and David was its heart. Dave played everything and sang anything. He was a musician, actor, artist and humble restaurant dishwasher. He had no pretenses, nor did he care about income, status or any of those things. He took you as you were. If you were kind and honest, great. If you could play the ukulele or write a song, even better. If you made him laugh, he lit up and sparkled.

I only ever heard him get really annoyed about something once, and it was recent. A nurse had called him Davey. He reminded her that was a privilege for sisters and girlfriends only! It was David or Dave, please.

He had already beaten cancer once. As a teen, he received a bone marrow transplant from sibling #3 to beat leukemia. Chemotherapy was more experimental then, and its side effects cost him the vision in one eye. For years, he wore eye patches that he decorated for the seasons. Tinsel for Christmas. A Shamrock in March. He named his art company, A Good Eye.

When it was time for Dave to go into palliative care, he was, as always, realistic and resolute. But first we had to reassure him that he wasn’t bumping someone else out of the healthcare line. He worried that white privilege might deny another person their “rightful place” to a bed. It took some convincing. That was Dave. He was more concerned about someone else who might be suffering. Parkwood treated him well. He was at peace.

I found this photo of Dave on Facebook and made copies for everyone. It’s classic Dave, wearing tie-dye, lost in the song, playing drums at the same time.

Brother Dave, eyes closed, drumming, with purple lights around him.

We had many talks about life, love, and other unsolvable issues. He drew the covers for my books The Naked Truth, My Sepsis Story, and my favourite drawing of his, Venus Rising.

He created a drawing that Derek and I both have tattooed on our skin. Every year he gifted the family with an original comic book, graphic novel, calendar or some other artistic keepsake.

But mostly, when I think of Dave, I think about him singing for us. I think about how happy he was playing alongside his siblings. I think about how everyone else would head for a cold beer and BBQ and Dave would keep plucking away and singing beautifully. Cousin Kim calling out for House on Pooh Corner. How easily Dave shifted gears from rock and blues to soft ballads. His unusual and surprising arrangements of familiar songs. YouTube has dozens of videos of him acting, singing, telling stories.

Last October, when Dave’s illness required more care, three siblings flew out to BC to move him back to Ontario. Gabe – as the locals call the island – was having an open mic night. They made it a farewell performance for Dave. Everyone on the island knew him.

The song is by Jason Mraz. With Davey on stage is brother Colin, #5.

40 thoughts on “Davey, My Brother”

  1. Lisa and your grieving family,
    Such a lovely tribute to your one of a kind dear brother. Please accept my condolences on his loss. Gone too soon, but never forgotten.

  2. A remarkable tribute to a remarkable brother…. talent galore, singer, musician, artist, a true humanitarian and a loving brother— he came home every summer from paradise! RIP Dave, you will obviously be greatly missed. Love and hugs to you Derek, and Lisa, and your wonderful family. 💚

  3. Such a talent. I remember when you spoke of the ‘artist’ being able to do the perfect covers for your books, and the sing alongs that perhaps lasted a little longer and were perhaps a little louder than your neighbours might like (country life is much better for that). The memories of such happy times will remain in your heart forever. R.I.P. Dave.

    1. Yes, Brenda – Sharonstock brought out York Region’s finest until brother Rob (#2) moved the festivities to a nearby farm. The family together on stage was always a highlight for us. They’re all so talented but I think they’d agree that Dave was gifted beyond measure when it came to music and art. Thanks for commenting, and remembering!

  4. This is such a beautiful performance video of Dave and Colin. I am so sorry for your loss of your dear talented brother.
    Thinking of you and your family.
    Kim Ethier

  5. Dave sounds like he was made of the good stuff. What lovely memories you all have of him to share. Thinking of you all. I’m glad he’s resting now. xo

  6. Lisa, such a beautiful tribute to David. He was so loved and will be so missed by all the family. And the thought of Sharonstock without David singing “House At Pooh Corner” for me is something I don’t want to think about. He was a sweet, beautiful person. My love to all the Bottens.

  7. Lisa & Derek. So sorry for your sadness. What a beautiful post. He sounded like he was such a wonderful person. Keep all those memories forever in your hearts. Much love ❤️

  8. Your tribute to Dave Botten is a beautiful representation of the bond of the Botten family. I’m a friend of Barbs and also grew up
    In Byron. Everyone knew “The Botten’s”, their station wagon was always going here or there. I just wanted to say, thank you. This is such a wonderful read, and truly made me feel the love of this family for each other. I’m thinking of all of you and sending love. It’s a lot of love, as you are a huge family. My sincere condolences, and I’m so very sorry for your tremendous loss. ❤️

  9. What a touching tribute to your brother. Condolences to the whole Botten family. You will have many wonderful memories of him. Both in video and in your heart!

  10. Ellen Lethbridge Warren

    I am so sorry for the family loss, but I would think he is singing with angels and jamming out a good song somewhere.

  11. Connie & Ray Roberts

    Such a great introduction to Dave – I wish I had known him. Thank you, Lisa for letting us meet him.

  12. Dave left for the left coast when he was relatively young as I recall, so Like you Lisa I had less Dave time. But I always loved and admired his strength, his sense of humour (the eye patches were always so reflective of his spirit and pure joy of life). My heart goes out to all of the Bottenage for the loss of Dave. He sure cut his own swath.
    May he rest in peace.

    Tam Burgess

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