My father died today. He spent the better part of his life as an engineer with the Merchant Marine. It is a maritime tradition that when a member of the engine department passes away he is said to be “finished with engines”.
My father had been in failing health for some time but if pressed to identify the cause of death I’d have to say he died of a broken heart. Losing mom after 61 years of marriage took both an emotional and physical toll. I think he survived as long as he did so he could be there to take care of mom. Without her his life lost meaning and purpose.
He was 83 years old and by any account he lived a long, and often hard, life. He was nothing if not strong willed. His passing was inevitable but I was surprised by how quickly he went in the end. I believe he just decided it was time to go, so he went. By all accounts it was a peaceful and easy departure. Perhaps that’s the best any of us can hope for.
His desire was to have his body donated to the medical university. After jumping through some bureaucratic hoops today we were able to make that happen. Dad was always generous in his own quiet way and certainly wouldn’t want a big deal made of his parting gift. And he made it very clear that a big funeral was not for him. So I hope this simple tribute will suffice to do justice to his memory.
Dad, you were an amazing man and truly one of a kind. You’ll be missed by all who knew and loved you.
My father was a lover of poetry and some of my earliest memories are of him sitting in his easy chair reading his favorite poems out loud to us kids. And I distinctly remember him reciting this one on some long ago day:
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me;
“Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”
–“Requiem” Robert Louis Stevenson