As an introduction, we should stress that the person we write about here in this Case Study, gave permission for us to write about him.
Dave was first referred to St George’s at the beginning of June 2021, and Pattaya Mission promptly engaged with him at his bar in Jomtien.
Dave had lived in Thailand for seventeen years. Dave had met Lat, his wife, not long after his arrival.
Back in England, Dave had an estranged grown-up son who he had not had contact with after an acrimonious divorce from his first wife in the UK.
Whilst living in Pattaya, Dave owned a very successful pub called ‘The Robin Hood’.
In 2018, Dave sold his business to retire but he could sit on his hands and soon rented another single-fronted bar in Jomtien, which he named ‘Latitude’.
That is where St George’s connected with him.
The first meeting with Dave happened in the Latitude bar. The bar was not operating as a business.
The metal shutter which opened onto the road had been raised halfway and we had to duck under to get in to see Dave.
A double bed had been put in the middle of the floor area, nearby the pool table.
Dave was living with terminal and advanced bone cancer. He was emaciated and laying in the double bed in the middle of the bar. There were several fans to keep Dave cool.
Dave explained that he had little money beyond the pension he received. He did not have Health Insurance and things had taken a turn for the worst after he had started using money needed for his cancer treatment, to pay the rent on his home/business. Dave and his wife lived above the bar.
Attending to Dave was his wife who was arranging his medication and preparing to change some dressings covering some bedsores which had happened when Dave was last in the hospital. The worst of these sores was located around his coccyx area.
The dressing change was very painful for Dave and a traumatic process to see. It was clear no easy or painless way of doing it.
Dave chatted to us a little and every few minutes of chatting, he would slowly slip down the bed he was propped up in. This resulted in all around him having to lift from under his arms and move him back up the bed. A very painful manoeuvre.
There were a number of needs highlighted during our first visit:
- Hospital Bed
- Nursing Assistance to change the dressings
- Social support with visits from friends
The Hospital Bed
It seemed to us that the most urgent need was a hospital bed, which Dave would be in control of via remote control.
The church appealed on Facebook to the Pattaya Expats Club Group and to the Pattaya City Expats Group.
It was not long before John Collingborne of Collingborne Auctions got in touch.
John had an electric hospital bed in the auction room, yet unsold, but he needed to check if the owner was willing to lend it.
Conrad Caruana Montaldo offered to pay for supplementary nursing care to come and change the dressings on Dave’s bedsores.
This was a big step since it meant that Lat, Daves’s wife need keep an eye on pain relief medication, food, hydration and hygiene.
One Saturday morning, the nurse informed us that Dave’s oxygen was very low and that he would become increasingly breathless, this would only add to his distress.
We investigated the cost of oxygen canisters which were over an extended period considered too costly when compared to the cost of an Oxygen concentrator.
Despite it being Shabbat, we spoke to Conrad who agreed immediately to cover the cost of an Oxygen Concentrator to the church which we could loan to Dave.
By 5pm the same day, Dave was benefiting from breathing pure oxygen.
This intervention was in no way going to extend his suffering, only reduce the distress during his last weeks.
We reminded ourselves of the Scriptures; particularly, Matthew 25:36-40:
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
The owner of the bed agreed to the loan.
John said he was happy to deliver it to the bar and lend it to Dave for the duration. With only a few days’ notice, John Collingborne informed us that he could deliver the bed, but that it was very heavy.
We spoke to Dave about having one last party at his bar. Conrad suggested getting some food and inviting all his friends who since Dave’s chronic sickness had not been by to see him too often.
Dave liked the idea of having a ‘living wake’, but wanted little fuss after he was gone.
We made arrangements and got messages to as many of his friends as we could.
More than 20 people turned up on the day. Each and all had time to sit and chat with Dave. For most, it would be the last time they saw him alive.
For some, it was the start of more regular visits over the next few weeks as Dave’s body began to give in to the inevitable.
In any event, at about 2pm, the van pulled up with the hospital bed. We were lucky to have so many ‘hands-on deck’ and the job of moving and assembling the hospital bed was made short work.
Dave was soon sitting up in a bed he was able to adjust at the press of a button. Much more comfortable.
If everyone does a little bit, no one has to do a lot!
We visited Dave a few times between the bed being delivered and when he died on 22nd July 2021.
Our visits were supplemented by visits from Conrad and Renu, Paul and Phil.
Much of what he said was written in a short statement read out in the Chapel a week or so later and can be seen below.
Remembering Dave Collier
Dave was born in Coventry, and spoke about growing up surrounded by bomb craters, after the city was flattened in the Blitz, and then seeing the place rebuilt in his youth.
He owned businesses in England, got married, had two sons’s and even though the marriage was failing, he stuck around for the boys and his ex-wife, trying always to do the right thing. He was there until the boys were old enough to cope, and then walked away with cash in his pocket, and nothing more.
He lost touch with his former existence, and also his sons, but his view was pragmatic. Life sometimes is unfair.
That was a long time ago now, and subsequently Dave reskilled as a commercial pipe fitter, earning more money than he knew what to do with, so he started travelling. Dave loved travelling, spending time both in South America and also in Sri Lanka before, 17 years ago, settling finally in Thailand.
He opened what was to become a thriving business – the Robin Hood pub here in Pattaya, and it was then he met his future wife; Lat.
During the ups and downs of the last 17 years, after the Robin Hood, Dave then had another bar around by Soi Welcome, before finally opening ‘Latitude’, where he finally passed away from the effects of bone cancer.
It is fair to say that I did not know Dave for very long – in fact for only a little over a month before he died. I met him lying on a bed; suffering in the very worst of conditions.
During that time his friends stuck by him, some visiting more often than others. Nearly everyone made it to a living ‘wake’, which was held just a few weeks ago. Dave liked the idea of seeing all his friends at the one and the same time. Food and drinks were laid on, and it was a wonderful opportunity for everyone there to say ‘goodbye’, personally, and to his face.
As it happened, on that day a Hospital bed arrived; everyone rallied around to help get this into the bar, and then Dave was transferred from the old one to this very much more comfortable replacement, much better suited to his progressively deteriorating condition.
I have been in touch with as many of his friends as possible, in order to try to get a measure of this incredible man, and been sent anecdotes describing him as very obliging, helping someone escape and move on from domestic violence – generous both with his time and his money.
One person said that in Dave’s bar there was always free food for the regulars, who might well not have had money to buy lunch, and he was a very good cook!
Dave was always the life and soul of the party, and when there was nothing really to celebrate, he would make up something to get things going. He so enjoyed a good joke!
Dave did not wish to cause any trouble, or to be a burden to anyone.
One thing which Dave was not – he was not afraid of his impending demise!
I had several conversations with him about what he wanted to happen after he was gone; he had clarity and grace; despite being in excruciating pain for so much of the time.
He was not afraid of judgement, or of being wrong!
He was not afraid of friendship, a bad joke, or a good laugh!
He was not afraid of a good time, or bad timing, or of consequences.
No matter how hard human existence was to him, Dave loved life to the full. He embraced it without reservation, regret or remorse….and that is rare indeed!
It is a great pity more people are not afraid, just like Dave, and I hope very much that it will be some considerable time before all my memories of him start to fade.
Death for Dave was a merciful release, and was far too long in coming – he had suffered more than enough.
He leaves behind his wife of 17 years; Lat.
I had a chance to speak to Dave about what he would like to be included in this service, and we settled on this poem:
THE MEASURE OF A MAN
Not – How did he die? But – How did he live?
Not – What did he gain? But – What did he give? These are the things that measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth. Not – What was his station? But – had he a heart? And – How did he play his God-given part? Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer? To bring back a smile, to banish a tear? Not – What was his church? Not – What was his creed? But – Had he befriended those really in need? Not – What did the obituary in the newspaper say? But – How many were sorry when he passed away? These are the things that measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
What more could any of us wish?
Success, in this case, depended on teamwork and partnership working.
NOTE: All interventions detailed above were enabled by the singular financial support of a member of our congregation, Mr Conrad Caruana Montaldo who formerly lived in Thailand and lately resides in Malta.