Sunday, August 23, 2009

Headed Topside

Last weekend, we buried my grandfather, Alexander Frank Weir MD. Strangers and patients knew him as Dr. Weir, and his friends called him Frank, but the grandkids (11 of us) all called him Poppi. Actually, for a period of time beset by frequent boating incidents during the 70's, his kids mainly called him Captain Stuck-in-the-Mud. I think that might have also been a subtle reference to his Indian heritage.

Of course it is hard to lose a family member, and so much of our death rituals are built around giving reassurance to those that remain behind. Even for a grandchild, you feel the impact of death in seeing your seniors grieve. But I think given his quality of life towads the end, everyone agreed that he's in a better place.

During the funeral service, Rev. Bill Arthur used a turn of phrase that I had never considered in that context. As he was talking about Poppi's life, and about death as a large (but not terminal) step, he said that Frank was "headed topside." He didn't elaborate on this nautical reference, and continued with his homily, but I was overcome by the imagery that this little phrase evoked. You can just imagine spending your entire lifa aboard a ship-at-sea, getting just a now-and-then glimpse of the world through a cloudy porthole, and even your access to the setting and rising of the sun at the mercy of the vessel's heading. And then, suddenly, to emerge from the depths of the galley onto the open deck, surrounded by endless miles of majesty and sky and sea, clouds and wind and the very sun at your fingertips. What a feeling that must be...

Poppi was a strong, loud, fun-loving and hard-living man. He was a compassionate and respected doctor, a loving husband for 59 years, and he presided proudly over a very large and loving family. We will all miss him greatly.

Fair winds and following seas, Captain Stuck-in-the-Mud.

In memoriam: Doctor A. Frank Weir, Jr. (1928-2009)

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