Death Of An Atheist

Here’s a little bonus entry for you. I was driving home this morning after a lovely bit of *facepalm* brought to you by hubby Ken. He left this morning for his new job in Atlanta and he left his backpack with his laptop sitting in the living room. So I drove part way to meet him.

I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I don’t drive with the radio on. It’s too distracting. Driving is the time that I get to myself to ponder the things that randomly pop into my head.

This morning, for instance, I was pondering the proper protocol for an atheist’s funeral.

No, no one close to me has died. I just think on the odd topic now and again.

It occurred to me that you can’t simply give the grieving family the usual “s/he’s in a better place” platitudes. Atheists don’t believe in any divine being nor an afterlife. It’s literally One Life To Live: The Home Game.

That leaves the awkward (as if funerals weren’t awkward enough) comments like “S/he had a helluva run, eh?” or the overdone, oft used “I’m sorry for your loss”. How many times can the family hear that second one without getting sick of it?

I’m a rather odd bird. When things like this come up I am reminded of John Cleese giving the eulogy of Graham Chapman. John walked out, sat on the coffin and proceeded to deliver this speech: ( “He is an ex-Chapman.”, he concludes.

James “The Amazing” Randi, said in an interview in SF Magazine recently that he doesn’t want a big memorial. He just wants to be cremated and his ashes blown in Uri Gellar’s eyes.

My hero.

Even when I was a True Believer I felt that we don’t mourn for the person who is gone. We mourn for ourselves because we will miss the one who died. Mourning is an act of self-indulgence. We cry and our heart breaks because we know that we will never see that person again and our life is  a little more diminished for not having that person in it.

So I ponder how to deal with the death of an atheist. What are the right things to say? Seriously, the whole ‘dirt nap’ saying doesn’t play well with others at a funeral. Neither does the Kevorkian plug-n-play euphemism.

I would love to be able to say something comforting that doesn’t sound like a platitude that might make the griever smile even just a little bit. And “I’m sorry to hear about his/her demotion to plant fertilizer” is just NOT gonna cut it.

Okay, okay, I know this post has degraded into really dark humor. All kidding aside, I wonder, is it appropriate to bring up fond memories you have of the deceased? Does that help or hurt? One would think it would help, but I really don’t know.  It’s obvious that even at my age my experiences with death are pretty theoretical.


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