We’re not the only Forest Park family who will be missing loved ones at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow. As sad as these absences are, we can be thankful for how some people have filled our lives. Their spirit and example are gifts that inspire us for all time.

My brother-in-law, Don Davids, for example was one of the guys you looked forward to seeing at holiday gatherings. A year and a half ago, Don felt a headache and was suddenly gone. Only 43 with a wife and five kids, Don’s death devastated us. But the way Don lived his life is a lasting gift to a family that misses him terribly.

Don wasn’t just a fun person, he was one of those remarkable people that changes and grows before your very eyes. When I first met Don he seemed shy. Over the years though, Don grew to enjoy the spotlight.

When Don and Lisa celebrated the birthday of one of their kids, Don would start the proceedings with a story. He would choose a Bible passage that spoke to the kid at that time in their life and weave a lesson around it. We got to listen to the wisdom Don acquired while mowing the lawn, or washing the car. His mini-sermons were more meaningful than the messages I heard in church.

Not that Don was a holier-than-thou type. He had an unerring sense of right and wrong but didn’t ram it down your throat. His gentle, non-judgmental manner drew others to him and he helped more than one person turn their life around.

At the same time, he could be the life of the party–or if one of his kids needed comforting, a reassuring strength.

After uncles like myself stopped playing sports with the younger set, Don was still out on the basketball court. He was an unmovable force that never strayed far from the basket. Don had the worst shooting touch I’d ever seen, but he got better at it.

We had no idea how far Don’s influence extended until the night of his wake. Salesmen who barely knew Don from business dealings were so impressed with him that they flew in from other states. Even storeowners where Don had delivered newspapers part-time, lined up to comfort his family.

Despite our loss, Don’s family has continued to change and grow. Be it his presence at the table, or on the sofa watching the Detroit Lions, or in the middle of the key during pick-up basketball games–may we continue to receive his imperishable gifts.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.