Life's End

My goal is to serve the Freethought community just as a minister services a religious community. Like those who participate in an organized religion, non-religious peoplewant closure and a thoughtful acknowledgment of a loved one’s life. I have created a funeral services reference binder to assist those planning their own memorials or their loved ones to ensure their wishes are carried out as they wished.

My friend Ted Swart told me that he had lymphatic cancer. Ted and I began to talk about his funeral arrangements. He made clear that he knew he was going to die. He wanted others to know that he was facing death without fear and that he was not reaching out to a god or higher being or hoping for an afterlife.

Ted called me to the hospital when he knew the time had come. He outlined exactly what he wanted to occur at his funeral as I sat with him the night before he died. I took notes and told Ted that he could count on me to make sure his instructions were followed. This brought peace and comfort to Ted. After he was sure that I had noted all of his concerns and requests, he asked the nurse for an increase in morphine.

As Ted slowly slipped into a drug-induced sleep, I held his hand and read aloud from a book of poems and prose by Robert Green Ingersoll. Ted stirred occasionally saying that he found the words of Ingersoll very soothing and consoling. It seems that I made the right decision to have brought the Ingersoll book with me. Ingersoll’s words made my job less painful — similar to those who use the Bible for comfort.

Inez, his longtime companion, called early the next morning to tell me that Ted had died. I was honored when she requested my help in making funeral arrangements. Ted’s three adult children, who live in other parts of the country, had arrived and wanted to meet me. Inez informed them about Ted’s desire to have a purely secular funeral and they said that they would cooperate. Ted had warned me, however, that his children may try to impose their religious beliefs on the funeral service. He had me promise that I would represent his position with the utmost diligence and commitment. I was determined to do so.

Below is a video of the Memorial Service at the American Atheists 50th Anniversary Convention.

March 28-31, 2013 in Austin, TX.