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Cindy Jannell

Cindy's
Story

Hello. Welcome to “Church”.

My name is Cindy Wright Jannell.

I am honored to share in the backdrop of this song. It expresses a tapestry, a painting, a voice and a melody of joy, love, sadness, and loss. May it open your heart to the precious gifts life offer us. This is part of our story.


I lost my husband of 16 years to liver cancer 2+ years ago. I wish you could have known him. He
was always David to me, Jannell to some, and to others Big Wave Dave.
The things David felt most proud about was his Surfing, his Military service and his 26 years of
Recovery from substance addictions.
Growing up in Santa Ana, CA he began long board surfing as a teen. Surfing became his passion
and would fill a void from losing his father at age four and the later conflicts with his stepfather.
He did his best to adjust, made friends easily, did some sports like boxing, baseball, and had a
paper route. Early on he got kicked out of Catholic school to his mother’s chagrin, though she
always believed in him full heartedly. He also spent some time in a corrections facility, CA Youth
Authority. Surfing got into his skin and he and his gang had many tales from their surf seeking
adventures. With stashed boards they often hit their local spot early mornings called
“Halfways” and “Church” which happened to be on a restricted Military base called Camp
Pendleton.
Those carefree days eventually came to an end as young men were being drafted into V.N. At
21 he signed up for the Army serving there from, 1966-68. He moved in rank to Sargent having
shown leadership and courage in combat. David didn’t talk much about the war to me. That I
regret. When we met it had been 34 since his service. He still held onto his badges, canteen,
ammo boxes, duffle bag and bedding. He read a lot from his collection of Viet Nam history and
personal stories. War movies were of interest to us both, but he was the movie buff. He had
many favorites and would quote from them often. He made me laugh a lot! I think in his dream
life he may have been an actor.
Humbled and changed by what he endured would change his world forever. The imprint of V.N.
left a mark as he had begun to occasionally use drugs there. Coming home he found a vocation
as a journey painter and mason. His recreational use of drugs got to be a habit. He married, had
2 children, divorced, remarried and had 2 more children. He could not break the pattern of kick,
use, jail-prison only to relapse once again. He moved to San Diego and after a few attempts of
rehab through a Veterans program, triple threat counseling and many mentors his life turned
around. His circle of friends was in 12 step meetings. He had a long-term commitment at the La
Jolla VA Hospital in which sharing his story brought hope of recovery to many Vets. His
counselor and friend an avid surfer got him back into surfing of which he seemed born to do
with skill and grace. David’s deep down real character was shining again. We had many
wonderful times surfing his favorite break, Church.
David and I had met in recovery and we both loved surfing. I consider it a “God thing”. What a
joy to find the love of my life, to be content with and come home to!
He was a person I could depend on and trust. He made me feel cared for, safe and protected.
He was courageous, kind, humorous, and generous with a fierce loyalty. He made long enduring
relationships and was the kind of person people liked being around.
David survived remarkably through many hardships, dangers and illnesses that are not easily
overcome. We thought he would beat cancer like many other battles he had won in his life. It
was well managed for about 6 years. The last 2 years were miserable as his disease progressed
and the last aggressive type of treatments took a great toll overall. Succumbing to pneumonia

he went into the hospital and was discharged in fairly good shape. We started home hospice
and that went seriously bad. He went to ED at La Jolla VA and then into the Palliative Care Unit
where he was stabilized after a few days. In a calm state he recognized me, smiled and said my
name. It wasn’t very long before he was in a semi coma state. He lasted 10 days before taking
his last breath of which I am so grateful to have been there.
Everyone acknowledges death as a hard reality that sometime we will all face. It isn’t something
you can prepare for, or the grief that follows. One of my biggest regrets is that David and I
didn’t get counseling support for navigating beforehand all the changes that were happening.
We both didn’t know how to talk honestly to each other of what we were feeling and facing.
We had been under accumulating stress, needed help, yet clueless to ask and no one pointed to
the resources available. Just going to increasing appointments in palliative care and oncology
together didn’t cut it. Trying to manage all on your own is not the way to go.
Right after David died the chaplain and nursing coordinator in Palliative Care reached out to me
about the Legacy Song Support Group. I felt shattered with nowhere to turn. Thank goodness I
said yes to the invitation to participate in the program. It has been a lifesaver through my grief.
It hasn’t been easy to allow others in and share my pain, but it is the remedy. As the group
members share and our songs have been created the bonds of friendships grow. I have found
hope and healing. I am surprised that I have come this far, wading out into deep waters and
didn’t drown.
David’s life was cut too short and I will always miss him. Our love grew over the backdrop of the
sea. Through our connection to the sea we found some joy, peace and freedom from life’s
winds and storms. We knew God’s grace had been over our lives.
Today in my life I have many candles, people who care about me. God is my ultimate light and
foundation. I am finding purpose in each day. I will surf as long as I am able. David’s in my heart
so he goes where I go. These days are a gift and I am learning more about reaching out to
others.
David would have liked this song I think-simple yet profound, the way we sought to live our
lives.
I give special thanks to the Legacy team, Ian, Heather, and Tam from La Jolla VA along with the
members of our Legacy Support Group. You’re the best.
Peace-Shalom along your journeys.

Church

I just loved to watch you

Talking with the Lord

Amazing grace and freedom

Carved upon the board

You weren't sitting in a building

You were standing on your feet

I know that's how I found you

The same fruit on the tree

 

We’d go out in the mornings

Looking for the keys

See the flood before us

And get down on our knees

'Cause every day was Sunday

With water on the floor

We’d show up to the service

And swim right through the door

 

Because we found out together

We could battle any weather

By dancing on the waves

To keep from going under

From tsunamis and the thunder

We'd stay in church all day, all day

 

That day I almost lost you

Tide was pretty grey

The force of all that ocean

Carried us away

Went down to the silence

Buried in the rain

But came back to the surface

I heard you call my name

 

Because we found out together

We could battle any weather

By dancing on the waves

To keep from going under

From tsunamis and the thunder

We'd stay in church all day, all day

Contact the VA

858-552-8585 ext 7680

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