My Father's Funeral, an Atheist's Funeral.

  A few weeks ago my father passed away. Like me he was an Atheist. Like me he had been one since he was a young man. I was six when I “became” one, or rather realized, like with Santa, the Easter Bunny,
ghosts and all, it was all made up.

  So in keeping with my father’s wishes we had a non-religious funeral.  I gave the eulogy. I spoke about his life.  What he had achieved as a young
man. How I had finally gotten to really know him these past few years.

  You see, as a child my father was always working. He was in the shipping business. He was also a “Depression” kid. So when his generation had work, they worked.  They had lived through the Depression doing
without.  Few back then ever did
without.  You could tell the difference
in them.  Their life, their views, and so
on.

  Then I had a toast to my father.  You see, we placed some things in his coffin with him. A blanket he had
had for years.  Even had it with him when
he passed away.  It was a plain cream
colored wool blanket an Army Officer had given him during the war.  My father was a Merchant Marine before,
during and after WWII.   They promised
them the stars if they kept going to see. Their losses percentage wise were
almost equal to that of the USMC during WWII. 
But at the end of the war, the US military fought to get those promises
from being fulfill. And the US Military won.

  It wasn’t until 1988, when a Federal Judge declared that they did deserve veteran’s status. President Reagan signed the bill. 
But, my father, and other Merchant Vets of WWII said, “we don’t need
these benefits now, we needed them then.” 
My father never used his.  He found
out the hard way his government had reneged on their years of promises.  He was enrolling in college and while
standing in line with all the other vets, some who’d never seen combat, heard a
shot fired in anger, or left the United States, told that he would not get any benefits.  He would have earned about four Purple Hearts
for his wounds.  He was also sunk once by
the Germans.  

  When the US entered the war, he was in the Pacific. They ended up getting evacuees out. At one place, the Japanese patrol boats were coming down
the river. Their boats could do 12 knots. My dad’s ship could do 8 knots.  But they got out.

  He also sailed the North Atlantic.  When a man went into the war in those latitudes, they didn’t last five minutes. They
didn’t have the survival suites they have today.  They didn’t have the technology we do.  So when you see the movie Titanic, just
remember, those who went into the waters that night didn’t live as long as they
did in the movie.  That’s Hollywood, not
reality.

   So my father attended night school but never got his degree. He was married by then, had their first child and worked.  
He worked until about 1998. Then he retired.  He was the treasurer of a company.  Not bad for a kid who got out of high school
during the Depression who owned two pairs of pants and five shirts and lived in
the Y.

   In his coffin we placed his favorite wool blanket.  We also placed a bottle of his favorite Scotch.  In addition his special “pen”, and his winter
officers cap.  Later, I put a bottle of
Meyers’s Rum in there too.  It was his
favorite rum. And mine too.

   So as I said I gave the eulogy.  And I had a bottle of his scotch too.  I brought
glasses, another bottle of Meyers’s Rum, and some ginger ale.  I also brought some of his favorite
chocolates.  I had some sugar free too
for those older folk who couldn’t eat sugar anymore.  My friends helped serve the drinks and hand
out the chocolates.

  I asked everyone to join me in a toast to my father.  They all stood who could. I raised my glass, faced my father in his coffin, and gave this toast, “TO A LIFE WELL LIVED”…
They people joined me in the toast and drank their drink.

  We then let others come up and speak.  They spoke about my father and his world, things he had done, and how he will be
missed.

   We then moved to the cemetery.  My niece read two poems at the grave site.  We
thought of the poem, “My Captain, my Captain” but it was just too emotional.  We said good-by and he was laid to rest next
to my mother.

   There was nothing religious about it.  No prayers. Some tears. But it was uplifting.  A celebration of life.  Not death. 
A funeral is for the living. 

  My father would have enjoyed it.

  Many have come up to me in the last few weeks that were in attendance.  They said it was “different” but it was memorable.  They’ll always
remember the funeral they went too where drinks were served, a toast was made
and chocolates were given out and life was celebrated.

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Tags: after, atheist, atheists, dead, death, die, dying, free, funeral, life, More…thinkker

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Comment by Michael Penn on April 5, 2013 at 8:10am

This was a very wonderful tribute to your father. This is how it should be.

Comment by Rick on March 6, 2011 at 3:16pm

I totally understand your situation Sentient Biped. My mother suffered from the same thing, but not as bad. A stroke took her.  But the loss is still great. She, however, was a spiritual women. Actually taught Sunday School as a young women. But over time her views changed. She was not a blind follower of a religion.  But, like your mother, a good person.

  I hope when the time comes, your family will be there for you.  I'm sure you'll give her a wonderful eulogy as well.

Comment by Rick on March 6, 2011 at 3:13pm

Thank you all for your comments. My father would have greatly appreciated them.

Yes, life should be celebrated.

Yes, life is "good" and it should be enjoyed.

One shouldn't have to go through life with the fear of some man made entity always watching you.

I like my father am an atheist. A couple of years ago I attended my first atheist gathering. There, a young women in her early 20's talked to the
guest speaker about realizing that there wasn't a "hell."...Then a few
weeks later she realized that there wasn't a "god."  She talked about
living her life up to that point with the "fear" that every thing she
did was being watched.

When she realized there wasn't a "god" she felt, free.  It was like a burden was lifted from her shoulders.

Having been an atheist since the age of six, when I stopped believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny and such, I've never ever known that kind of
fear. 

Until then, I never really knew how fortunate I was to be a non-believer.
Comment by Sentient Biped on March 5, 2011 at 10:57pm

Rick, Thanks for inviting us - virtually - to your Dad's funeral.  You gave a great eulogy. 

 

When my Dad died last summer I was asked to speak.  He was a believer and it was a religious funeral, but I did not speak of religions or gods or spirits.  I told the minister I am not a beleiver but wanted to give a eulogy that honored my Dad.  I spoke about how he lived the life he wanted, a full and overwhemingly satisfied life, and he himself would have said that he had lived a good and long life.  Instead of concentrating on our losses, we were fortunate to have some good times to remember.  Everyone there knew he was a good guy who tried to do the right thing for the people in his life.  I did not offer any prayer or supplication to spirits or bible verses or quotes, only thanks to the people who came to wish him goodby. 

 

So a few similarities to your send-off as well.  These stories are part of what makes Nexus worthwhile.

 

This is also a bit of practice, for me, because I expect to have the same situation for my Mom this year.  She has profound dementia and doesn't seem to know anything, recognizes no one, has breast cancer and had a bleeding episode 2 weeks ago that we decided not to evaluate.   I've already done my grieving, over an extended period of several years, and had a long time to think about her eulogy as well.  It will be similar.

 

Thanks again.

Comment by Jim DePaulo on March 5, 2011 at 9:36am
Rick, Your father's funeral was very similar to my father's funeral . He died on July 4th, 2001. We had a party with his friends and relatives with a catered BBQ and much booze. It was what he asked for – as our family are all Atheist having a church funeral was never considered.
It was a great gathering one my father would have loved.
My condolence on the loss of your dad.
Comment by Loren Miller on March 4, 2011 at 7:28pm
Sounds to me like the pilot book on how to do it and do it WELL.  Bravo, Rick, me 'at's off to ya!
Comment by Alona Naga on March 4, 2011 at 5:09pm
now that is how a funeral is supposed to be.

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