Papa’s Elegy

As some of you who know me personally are aware, my grandfather, Marv Heater, recently passed away at the age of 90. I was asked to speak at the funeral–this is the elegy I delivered.

Papa’s Elegy

Before the early morning fog I can still remember

the smell of eggs and bacon frying

cut by the acid of black coffee

Papa’s favorite.


The truck had been loaded the night before,

rods and tackle boxes and boat ready to be hooked up—bait in the fridge

worms that would sit next to cans of diet soda and sandwiches and a can of white corn:

this was the key ingredient to fool the hatchery stocked rainbows we were after;

Kokanee if we were lucky.


We passed green islands rife with Douglas fir, the water flat save for the wake of the boat,

engine vibrating against the aluminum hull as oil and gas smoked into the cold spring air.


I could tell you more about this memory, but there are a thousand and it seems unfair to focus on

only one.


The funniest thing I remember about my papa was that at big family dinners,

the dogs would all be suspiciously near his chair,

and on closer inspection, it was easy to see why:

scraps under the table.


I stand before you, lucky enough to have had thousands of days with this man, but I also know

there are thousands who have vivid memories from only one with him.


Some would say it was a gift, but gifts are irresponsible, and people often use that word to

describe qualities that are not given, but earned.


This confusion exists today, and I’m not sure what to make of it.

But I do know one thing:

my Papa was the sort of man I strive to be.


He was a leader, first and foremost, not because he was feared, as Machiavelli would suggest,

but because he was loved. Anyone—everyone—who met this man loved him. And why?


Because he was strong, and at the same time, generous,

wise, yet humble,

a powerful man who had compassion for the weak and downtrodden;

Papa wanted everyone to be their best and to what extend he could, he helped them do it.


I guess what I remember most about him is his undying compassion, his curiosity and interest in

life, his keen sense of right and wrong…


What I will remember most is his laugh and his smile.

The way he found joy in every morning.

If I can be half as good a dad and grandfather as he was it will be a win…


After the salmon spawn, they find a place in the calm shallows.

White marks of mold and decay mark their bodies, but the current is gentle and cool,

and anyway, there is no where else to go…

Under these ashen gray clouds there isn’t much light, but day by day things grow darker,

until at last all they feel is the flow of water against their sides, barely perceptible in this tailout.

And then there is nothing—only a void of blackness… and their spirits are sent free,

to find a young child’s eyes, a frosty mountaintop, or the roots of a local oak tree.

Reborn and regenerated, we all live on, eternally.




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