My Father's Eulogy
By: Brad Cole

The wet chill surged suddenly through my body as I dove beneath the wind swept waves of Lake Ashtabula. Breathing in and out slowly through a snorkel I kicked my fins gently in the murky water. Like an electric charge my body pulsated with sheer cold stimulation as though the lake was pulling outwardly on my body, trying to bond as one with me in that vast watery wilderness.

I had returned to my hometown in North Dakota for my father's funeral. A few dozen friends of the family had attended the church service, where it was mentioned that his devotion to family helped him to heal from painful World War II experiences in the Pacific. At the cemetery it was a soldier's funeral with full military honors: a 21gun salute, a two-person uniformed honor guard playing taps (one echoing the other) and ending with folding of the flag.

Afterwards I decided to swim in the lake loved by my father. The wavy bounce given by the large lake felt delightful. Flat farm country and meadowlark filled prairies surrounded the lake that had been formed by a dam. My father deeply enjoyed swimming and taught it to each of his three boys. Feeling the touching tentacles of long underwater weeds I decided against snorkeling deep.

Having adjusted to the water temperature and feeling refreshed in the windy waves, I thought back to the funeral home director asking me and my two brothers to stand beside our father in his coffin while it was being closed for the last time. Seeing my fathers entombment, forever removed from the touch of daylight, frightened me and I felt a cry. It was disturbing to see him fall into the vast depths of death. The grave can be an infinitely dark place for the soul and I believe one needs to love light to find true life. I know in Dad's heart there is plenty of love.

I continued to enjoy my snorkeled swim while thinking about the dark weedy depths of the lake. I remembered thinking about Dad, and years earlier Mom, both sinking into the mysteries of death and perhaps how the physical and spiritual worlds could be home to "families", where the highest principle is devotion to love. That communities, nature, Earth, solar systems, galaxies, and so on are mostly a bonding, a clustering of physical and spiritual "families". Is the spirit world as much a realm of families as our own communities? Does the spirit of love rule supreme, I wondered?

Feeling refreshed from a twenty-minute swim I finned back to the sandy shore and began walking toward my towel on a park bench. I decided that when I return home to Seattle I would take my one-year-old grandson to the sea. At first he will probably be afraid of the water and its many waves, I thought. But like my father before me, I want him to learn how to swim and to feel the tender charms of the wet wilderness. While braving the deep darkness of the ocean he will hopefully find the loving light of nature. Looking out at the blue and white billowy clouds and toweling off cool lake water I could see him excitedly crawling across the moist, soft sand out into the waves and the mystical sea beyond like a child returning to a long lost mother.