The Best of All Possible Funerals

Let me tell you about my uncle.

His name is Bob.  He grew up in San Francisco.  He lived in Seattle.  Over a year ago, he was diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer that left him paralyzed on one side of his body and was expected to kill him within a month.  He fought it for thirteen months, never giving up.  He died about a month ago.

Let me tell you about Bob’s family.  His wife, my aunt, spent the year supporting him in every way she could, showering him with the love he deserved and ensuring that his quality of life was the best it could be.  His children, my cousins, seemingly without hesitation, halted their adult lives in New York to give everything they could to their father.  I have never before seen such devotion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I never see that level of devotion ever again.  Angels could’ve hardly done better.

Let me tell you about Bob’s siblings, nieces, nephews, and friends.  Repeatedly, during the course of the year, they would fly to Seattle to visit and help (or at least try not to get in the way).  Every trip to Seattle seemed to ensure that the previous trip to Seattle wouldn’t be the last one.  After a while, there was never a last time to see Bob.  There would always be a next time – “I’ll see you later.”

Let me tell you about Bob’s brother.  He is my father.  This past year, he flew to Seattle more than he probably ever had previously in his entire life.  This past winter, driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, my father said these words to me: “Why do we never have time to visit people until they’re dying?”  At Bob’s funeral, he gave a eulogy that expanded this sentiment: “We never have time to visit our loved ones until we know there’s not much time left.  Well, I have news for you: there’s not much time left.”

Let me tell you about Bob’s funeral.  It was a snowy January weekend in La Conner, Washington – a small, sleepy town north of Seattle across a river from the Swinomish Indian Reservation where the services took place.

I’ve never had so much fun at a funeral.  It was a blast.

There was native american drumming and singing preceded by drifting speeches with no point or direction.  There was Japanese taiko drumming, a slide show, an interactive eulogy with costumes, the singing of Beethoven, and a delicious buffet with dessert and an open mic.

But best of all, there was laughter and togetherness.  In a cozy motel in sleepy La Conner, we joined together to watch the NFL playoffs.  Together, we sang songs at a restaurant (much to the chagrin of the staff, I’m sure). We sat around a fireplace after the celebration of life, merrily and sorrowfully drinking; every newcomer to our gathering would require another toast: “To Bob!”

No family is perfect, but those which are strong can come together in times of great sorrow and laugh together, drink together, and be merry together.  I am proud of my family, but moreover, I am proud of my uncle for being such a great man leading such an admirable life – a life that could bring us together at its closure to remind us what it means to be here on an otherwise lonely planet.

Thank you, Bob.

About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
This entry was posted in Autobiography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Best of All Possible Funerals

  1. Mark Carlson says:

    That’s beautiful, Jeff. And yes, cancer sucks, big time.

  2. becky says:

    Amen, son! Amen!

  3. Barbara Yasui says:

    Nephew Jeff,
    Such beautiful, heartfelt words of love…your post brought tears to my eyes. The miracle of the past year is that as horrible as Bob’s disease was, it brought us all closer together. I feel a love for all of you that is deep & abiding. Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Bob. He would be so proud of you. Love you, Aunt Barb

  4. Venom says:

    “Why do we never have time to visit people until they’re dying?”
    Very well said!
    May his soul rest in peace ^_^

  5. Rick Bailey says:

    Awesome tribute, Jeff. You have a wonderful family, too.

  6. Michele says:

    I don’t know you, or anyone in your family. Still, it seemed like something I wanted to read. My Uncle knew he was dying, although he did not tell anyone. I knew. He was gay. He had AIDS. There was no hope. I wish I had given him the kind of send off you gave to your loved one. David would have liked such a party. The drums, especially, I think.


  7. A beautiful message. Thank you!

  8. A beautiful message. I really do need to go back and see my folks more. Thank you for the reminder. May your uncle rest in peace.

  9. monkiss says:

    Bob would be proud :- )

    Your anecdotes are getting addictive. Thanks for sharing.

  10. scrunchylips says:

    wow. that would be an AMAZING way to write a book,

    “let me tell you about…”
    one character – and move on from there to create the whole story!

  11. scrunchylips says:

    VERY VERY VERY well written.

  12. rampike says:

    i’ve wondered for a few years why funerals aren’t more like this
    4 years ago my best friend and i made a pact to speak at one anothers funeral and wear bright colourful clothing..
    celebrating life seems way funner then celebrating death.

  13. Pingback: A Grand Absurdity of Existence | Doctor Quack

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