The following is the outline I used as a tribute to my Dad at his funeral last Saturday. Just to put it into context, my dad was a Geologist and Mining Engineer by trade and wasn’t really much of a religious person. He was a scientist and didn’t really abide by the ritual mythology surrounding most religious thought – however the funeral services were held in a Mormon church – the church he was born into, although he was not an “active member.”  Anyways, just thought I’d mention that because some of the things I round-aboutly touch on are the failings of religion in general.

The Tribute:

So here we are today…  There are a couple things I need to quickly “get right” with, so I’m going to apologize to my dad for the accommodations and his attire for today.  Neither are anything he’d normally stand for.  Sure it’s nice and all, and he’d think it all looks nice and neat and proper; and he’d certainly be enjoying all of your company – although with all of you here at once he might be a bit incredulous and humbled by it all –  that’s just the way he was;  willing to put up with a few inconveniences and ready to help out or visit with someone, no matter the circumstances; a nicer man no one has ever met.  Now with that bit of apology out of the way, I’d like to take you on a trip. 


So instead of being stuck in this box of a building made by the hand of man, let us move ourselves with the power of our imagination to a truly spiritual setting – a place where god himself reigns sublime.


Imagine, if you will, a place of God’s own making. Close your eyes and imagine you’re far away from here. You’re standing in a green meadow high upon the mountains, with a smell on the cool fresh breeze that makes you want to inhale the clean air as deeply as you can. The softly scented meadow is surrounded by quaking aspens and pine trees and a small brook bubbles out of a glen of trees through the meadow. It’s cold splashing music keeping time with the calling birds and busy buzzing insects.  You may even glimpse an elk walking as stately as a king, purposefully weaving through the tree lined perimeter.  You watch him go by disappearing into the forest beyond and you know you’ve witnessed something special.


From this high mountain meadow vantage point, which has been under nature’s creative power for the passed four and a half billion years, you can look over the little green valley below where a small farming community has sprung from the creative hands of men over the course of barely a hundred years, huddling in nature’s beautiful, and protective mountainous embrace. It’s truly a sight to behold!  The hands of men cannot create anything that compares to the grandeur, wonder, and majesty that the natural progression of time carves from the cosmos, guided solely by the comparatively simple rules of physics and chemistry.


Just imagine – yourself up there on our mountain under a star-lit sky, the arc of the milky way with its billions of suns shining down around us, while we’re sitting around the warm campfire lit against the cold of evening and to provide a light in the darkness of night.  We’ll begin to remember stories and to tell them to one another around that campfire.  Stories about where we’ve been, and about the people we’ve met along this journey through time that we call life.  Here are a couple of the stories I would tell around the fire.  


My Dad was one of the most neighborly and honestly good natured persons that I ever knew.  His patience seemed unending and he always valued truth, family, and genuineness.  We often took long fishing trips to Lake Powell for bass in the wintertime and then fly-fishing in Yellowstone in summer, and he would wander through the campgrounds talking to whomever was around, finding out where they were from, if they were having any luck and could carry on a conversation with anybody he’d just met as if they’d been long-time buddies from way-back when. 


Fishing was probably one of Dad’s most favorite things to do, besides puttering around the house or scrounging around in the outdoors looking for treasures. Oh the fishing trips we would take together as a family – such great memories.  We’d go up to Moon Lake in the Uintahs and have a great time fishing and swimming in the lake.  Sometimes we’d do float trips down the Green River and there were times we’d catch so many fish, we couldn’t eat them fast enough before they’d spoil – and that was even when we’d been eating fish at every opportunity and every meal.  


When I was growing up in Salt Lake, Dad used to go up to the bowling alley almost every evening to have a cup of coffee and a smoke.  Eventually I was old enough to be invited up there to be a part of this ritual where he and George Olsen would drink coffee, have a few smokes and talk about the latest fishing and hunting equipment and where the “hot” locations were for trout, bass, elk, deer, etc.  This was in my Jr. High School years, so I would just have a Coke or a Sprite and listen in.  It was at this time that I was invited to start going on annual fishing trips.  In winter, I’d take a week off from school and Dad, George and I would head down to Lake Powell for some bass fishing. 


I remember getting my first heavy duty, graphite fishing rods & reels.  I considered these my first “real” fishing poles. Before that I’d had some ok fishing stuff, but these were special.  One was a spinning rod with a nice Browning reel, and the other was a “bait caster” with a Shimano reel.  The rods were Lews – I think they might have been called “Ugly Sticks,” but I thought they were grand!  They had a grey-black checkerboard sheen in the sunlight that looked very cool, in my eyes.  Bass fishing was great – in my mind it was just so much cleaner than the trout fishing we had done when I was younger.  All the lures were artificial, or plastic – so you didn’t have to get worm guts or cheese mess all over, and filleting pan fish, like bass or crappie was just so much easier than gutting a trout – AND – NO Bones when you ate them!  It was heaven!


The next “big thing” I got from Dad was all of my fly fishing stuff for Yellowstone.  Wow! It was neat!  I got the whole outfit – a Fenwick fly rod, Cortland reel, neoprene waders that were very light-weight, wading shoes, a fly vest, and flies too!  He even taught me how to tie some of my own flies and I’d use those and some he’d tied as well.  We would go up to cool Yellowstone in the summer – it was great!  Most of the fishing up there was catch-and-release, so in the evenings we’d go into West Yellowstone and have a fancy dinner at one of the restaurants, or just cook something up back at the KOA campground. The peace and quiet and sheer beauty of fishing a big river, wading out into the cool water and getting your fly line to land just where you want, working with the river and the wind; with no city or town life intrusions upon your mind.  These are memories I treasure and experiences I look forward to recreating the next time I head out to get on the river.


There’s something about being a fisherman.  I don’t think it was by accident that Jesus chose fishermen for his apostles.  As fishermen, we just know something – I can’t explain what it is, but other fishermen will know what I mean – a common bond and knowledge that others just don’t understand. It’s an understanding and kind of oneness and reverence for nature and the struggle to survive with this life in this world, and to make the most from that which you are given. It’s a certain truth about life, what it is and why it works the way it does.  It’s similar to my favorite and only true scripture, which very simply tells us; The Truth shall set you free.  Free from the tyranny of communism and fascism, free from the fear that causes racism and divisiveness between the peoples of this earth, and free from the slavery that disguises itself under many different names and ideologies.  My dad was one of the freest men I knew.


Hunting was another one of Dad’s fun things to do, whether it was for rabbits, pheasants, deer, or just misplaced treasures; like old bottles, shell casings, arrow heads, horse shoes, etc. Dad enrolled me in and attended Hunter Safety classes at one of the old fish hatcheries in Salt Lake – I remember running up and down the concrete fish lanes when we’d get our mid-class break.  Sometimes kids would fall into the mossy water, I don’t think I ever fell in, thank goodness!    After completing the class, I got my first shotgun for Christmas that year.  I believe it was a Remington 20ga. with an adjustable choke.  This was my pheasant hunting gun.  Somewhere around that same timeframe I also got my rabbit hunting guns, a .22/.410 over & under breach load, and a Remington .22 semi automatic with a nylon stock. That gun was just a blast to shoot, but I think the over & under was far more accurate.  Or maybe it’s just that I took a more careful aim with that gun, since it was basically a single-shot action.


I remember watching Dad reload shells in our basement in Salt Lake.  It took far more patience than I would ever know.  Dad had the patience of Job. It took A LOT to even begin to phase him.  He almost never raised his voice in anger – and then it was usually raised against himself when he’d whack a finger with a hammer or some other painful mishap while working on some project or another.  And even then he had a quiet way with his emotions which almost seemed sedate compared to other folks who would throw tantrums at half the provocation.


There just isn’t time nor space on a page for me to express the true nature of my dad and how much respect I have for him.  If you knew him, you’ll understand the depth of his character, how truly amazing his integrity, honesty, and absolutely caring human being he was. Without a vengeful or begrudging bone in his being.  Long ago, before I was even born, he transcended the need of arbitrary human labels such as “good Christian” or “good American” or what-have-you, and he became an honestly Good Human Being. An extraordinarily rare and precious commodity in this modern world. And I count myself an exceptionally lucky individual to have had the opportunity to learn from him and love him as my dad. Thank you dad – for providing an even better and far more practical example of how to live than any man in a book ever could, for all of your caring and love, and everything else that made you such a treasure to me and everyone else who let you touch their life. Thank you, I love you, and you will be sorely missed.