Let us be honest. Let us not pretend that it is less than it is. It is separation. It is sorrow. It is grief. But let us neither pretend that death is more than it is. It is not annihilation. As long as memory endures, Kurt’s influence will be felt. It is not an end to love — humanity’s need for love from each of us is boundless. It is not an end to joy and laughter — nothing would less honor one so vibrant than to make our lives drab. Let us be honest with death, for in that honesty we will understand Kurt better and ourselves more deeply.
No one entering this world can ever escape sadness. Each in turn must bear burdens, though rich or poor, and in turn bid loved ones farewell as they set out upon life’s ventures. Each one must suffer that sad farewell when loved one’s embark on the last voyage, and each in turn must take that final journey. But for those who make this life a pledge to the human spirit, there comes the assurance of a victory that redeems life’s pain.
[LIGHT CANDLE] Each life may be as the feeble glow of a single flame, but for the one who keeps it burning bravely to the end, death is not defeat. We light our candle today to tribute the life and living of Kurt.
We gather here today to honor the memory and life of Kurt whom we have known and loved.
Unfortunately death is an indispensable and unavoidable part of nature. Humans, being a naturally created part of the cosmos, could not exist with out death. In order to evolve, all species of living things are required to make room for subsequent generations. Each of which may include some subtle improvement over those that passed before.
So death is something we inherited from our most ancient ancestors, from the times when life here on Earth was just beginning. But life with its inevitable end, is not entirely an unfair proposition, because without death there could be no love, no friendship, no appreciation for the beauty and wonder of nature, nor even any people at all.
The process of evolution that has created each us, which has allowed every one of us to enjoy life’s pleasures and happiness also implies that one day these things must end. So I ask each of you gathered here to now take a moment of silent meditation, and think of Kurt and contemplate the many joys he experienced in his life, and how privileged Kurt was to live, love, and be loved by those gathered here.
[After roughly 1 minute . . . ]
I’d like to share a reading with you. Over a century ago, the great humanist orator Robert Green Ingersol wrote the following:
He denied the supernatural — the phantoms and the ghosts that fill the twilight-land of fear. To him and for him there was but one religion — the religion of pure thoughts, of noble words, of self-denying deeds, of honest work for all the world – the religion of Help and Hope.
Facts were the foundation of his faith; history was his prophet; reason his guide; duty his deity; happiness the ends; intelligence the means.
He knew that man must be the providence of man.
He did not believe in Religion and Science, but in the Religion of Science — that is to say, wisdom glorified by love, the redemption of humanity — the religion that conquers prejudice and hatred, that drives all superstition from the mind, that ennobles, lengthens and enriches life, that drives from every home the wolves of want, from every heart the fiends of selfishness and fear, and from every brain the monsters of the night.
He lived and labored for his fellow-men. He sided with the weak and poor against the strong and rich. He welcomed light. His face was ever toward the East.
According to his light he lived. “The world was his country — to do good his religion.” There is no language to express a nobler creed than this; nothing can be grander, more comprehensive, nearer perfect. This was the creed that glorified his life.
I’d like to talk about some of my own personal memories of Kurt, and some of the memories of others that I have talked to over the past few days.
Kurt was one of the smartest, most intelligent people I know. He was extremely well read. There seemed to be no subject no matter how obscure, and I often come up with some very obscure topics, that he was not well versed in and knowledgeable about.
He had a high regard for the sciences and nature. He liked astronomy. I remember him telling us about his and Meg’s trip to Aruba to observe a solar eclipse.
He was generous and supportive of the creative, artistic, and philosophical projects of his friends. Without his help I, and many others here, could not have accomplished many important projects that make the world better for every one.
Kurt was a member of a book group with me some years ago, where we would all read a title and meet to discuss it. Several of the members were aspiring authors and Kurt’s words of encouragment and guidance were supportive of their efforts, and help sustain their spirits as they navigated the road of rejection to eventual publication.
He and Meg contributed to their friends hopes and dreams, and helped pay for recording studio time that enabled musically talented friends to secure a recording contract. He was a musician. He and Meg would host gatherings with many bands, and Kurt would often take the stage and play along.
And he supported my efforts. Without his advice and assistance I personally could not have accomplished many endeavors that are my proudest achievements.
Kurt had strong beliefs about religion. He was not afraid to use his wisdom and knowledge to reach bold conclusions, and then stand by his convictions, to support what he knew to be right and condemn what was wrong. He was a free thinker and an atheist, and a humanist. Confident and sure of his abilities, and determined to make the most of this life here on Earth.
He did this by celebrating human creativity. In this vein he participated in events like the Burning Man festival, which he attending twice with Meg and their close friends Jim and Norma.
He made time to enjoy the beauty and awe of nature. After attending their niece and nephew, Erin and Eric’s wedding in Hawaii he and Meg toured the big island to soak in its vibrant natural beauty. On that trip he managed to squeeze in a helicopter ride, a thrill he always attempted to justify on any vacation where it was conceivably possible.
Kurt loved to travel to see the world, and to vacation with his family. In recent years he joined them half a dozen times for group trips to places like North and South Carolina and Tennessee. He told me of his pleasure and enjoyment of these reunions, and also of how much fun he had on the commute there and back on a particular trip when he and Meg first got their Miata sports car. He spoke of how he relished taking the long way home, driving the back roads, though mountains and wooded countryside.
Kurt often indulged his adventurous tendencies and sometimes it got him into trouble, but more often it satisfied his innate curiosity and the thrill of amazement he embraced whenever he learned something new about the world and the universe.
As some of you might be aware, Meg chose to donate Kurt’s organs, his eyes, bone, and skin. From this perhaps some one may regain their sight, another the ability to walk, and another victim of burn may be healed.
All of us here have cherished memories of Kurt.
It is within each of us that the memories of Kurt’s life are committed. There will now be a period of silence. I ask that each of you use these moments to remember Kurt as only you can. Let us enter this meditation with reverence and with love.
[After roughly 1 minute . . . ]
Now, as you feel moved to, please share your memories of Kurt with the rest of his family and friends. If any of you would like to stand or come here and share your thoughts of Kurt with all of us, I invite you to do so now.
No person can sum up the life of another. Life is too precious to be passed over with mere words, which ring, empty. Rather, it must remain as it is remembered by those who loved and watched and shared. For such memories are alive, unbound by events of birth or death. And as living memories we posses the greatest gift one person can give to another.
We bid loving farewell to Kurt.
We are profoundly glad that Kurt lived. We are glad that we saw his face and felt the glow of his friendship and love. We cherish the memory of his words and deeds and character. Carrying him thus in our hearts, let us now proceed in comfort and in peace, assured that even in this time of loss and sorrow, life remains precious and good. May we also on this day rekindle in our hearts an appreciation for the gifts of life and other persons. Let us honor the life of Kurt by living, ourselves, more nobly and loving in the days ahead. As you return to the routines of your lives, go in love, and may an abiding peace go with you.