|Rest in Peace, Dad!
My dad was a Scout Leader before I was even born. The service bars on his sleeve always impressed me. I followed in his footsteps by becoming a youth member and then worked my way up to being a leader myself. I wouldn’t be a teacher today without the experience Scouts gave me.
We had a tradition at Scout Camps called “Scouts’ Own.” This was basically a short church service that we ran ourselves. It didn’t matter where we were, at what campground we were stationed, or what we were doing. Every Sunday, we would hold a brief service.
I’ll never forget one that my father led. He collected all sorts of leaves on a hike in the morning and then used these in his sermon. He said that we were like the leaves. We come in different shapes, sizes, and colours, and it is this variety that makes life beautiful. We work together despite our differences and form an incredible forest. It was an inspiring talk.
So when my brother suggested that we plant a tree in memory of our dad, it felt like such a natural thing to do. We organized a Scouts-Own-Style service outside his home. We stood at the front of a small gathering of family and friends and shared a few stories and these readings.
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.
Dialogue of a Man and a Tree
The Man: Why do you grow so tall, way up there in the sky?
The Tree: I love the heights that are clean and free, where the lonely eagles fly, where the crane and the hawk can nest with me, and my friends, the geese, go by.
The Man: What do you use for food, tree to make you grow and grow?
The Tree: I live on a diet of Nature’s best from my roots deep down below; I never go hungry, I rest and rest and wait for the rain and the snow.
The Man: How do you grow so strong, Tree, sturdy and straight and true?
The Tree: I live in the light of the sunshine and yarn for the sky’s deep blue; the clean, sweet air is always mine, and the cold winds help me too.
The Man: How do you live so long, Tree, so much longer than man?
The Tree: I’ve geared my days with the Creator’s ways since ever the world began. There is no death when life keeps faith with nature’s wonderful plan.
– Vincent Godfrey Burns, Poet Laureate of Maryland, 1965
It Was a Perfect Send-Off
We held the service at his place right in front of his garden. It was a sunny, but cool autumn day. My brother and I stood at the front said a few words, planted a tree, and then asked if anyone else wanted to speak. A few friends said some really nice things. We then headed inside for food, drink, and fellowship.
It was absolutely perfect. We didn’t need a funeral home viewing. We didn’t need a church service. We didn’t need a casket. We held a small and intimate service and spread his ashes in his garden with the brand new tree.
My dad shared with me what he envisioned for his own funeral. He said that he just wanted a small, intimate gathering of family and friends. I hope we did him proud today. I am sure we did. I think it was the perfect send-off for one of the finest human beings I have ever known.
Rest in Peace, Dad!
I love you!