Sunday, September 8, 2013

Celebration of Life for A Dying Atheist

Having just returned from the Denver suburbs, I am left to contemplate the end of my atheist friend, Dave, who now has barely 4 weeks left – suffering from a massive adenocarcinoma of the stomach, which is also in his pancreas, and secondaries in his lungs. He also has pneumonia – for which he’s taking antibiotics in addition to the chemo three times a week. But the doctors give him no more than a month at most.

But yesterday evening was a glorious time in which Dave’s family held an event at an Aurora golf club clubhouse, tagged as a “celebration of life”. More than 200 attended included Janice and myself, as well as Dave’s family and extended family and nearly all his teaching colleagues of 25 years.

Dave with his wife Mary, and sister Nancy, had accompanied us to Barbados back in May, 2010. He enjoyed his week’s time there at a beach house we all rented. At that time he was a stout and lively 230 lbs , hale and healthy. When we saw him yesterday, he appeared to be barely 130 lbs., and remained seated in a comfort chair. It didn’t matter because the event revolved around him – and HE was king for a day – in a 3 hours long celebration of his life, as opposed to having a memorial after he’d died.

Photos of Dave with dozens of his friends adorned the many walls of the club house, as people gathered to watch them, after getting plates full of the delicious, catered food on offer. A long line of well wishers also awaited their turn to speak to him one last time, and wish him the best. Janice and I spoke with him at least ten minutes, with Janice joking:

“How could you check out now? It’s too early!

And he gave a still hearty laugh.

Then there was a group of family and colleagues who regaled us with tales of Dave’s past hijinks, going all the way back to High school. Including the time the principal nearly lost it after seeing a fake communist flag put up in the hallways. Some investigations led to Dave, and he was promptly put into detention. As the narrator put it:

“Dave probably spent more time in detention than I did sleeping! But know what? Despite the fact that the principal, Mr. Root, told him he’d never amount to anything, he probably reached more people and changed more lives – including of his students – than that authoritarian could have done in ten lifetimes!”

Well put! But then the authoritarians and the necrophilous lot seldom really change lives, except for the worst, as when they launch wars of choice, or break domestic budgets on account of defense spending.

A wonderful blessing was that Dave’s high –powered fundie sister Leia was silent the entire time. No preaching, no hellfire babble. Perhaps, as another family member put it, she finally realized she was outnumbered, “out gunned”. Indeed, none of us would have allowed her to harangue Dave in his most joyous moments with any of her phantasmagorical threats.

We will all miss Dave when he passes away, but the good he has done in reaching and touching so many lives will endure far beyond all of us sharing time with him yesterday evening at that Green Mountain Valley Ranch club house.

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