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
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
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
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
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
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.