Editorial Notebook -- Notes From A Funeral

A . . . time to weep, and a time to laugh . . .

ASIDE from the reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, there was little about Ralph Seeley's memorial service last Saturday that could be characterized as traditional. The 49-year-old Tacoma lawyer who died of rare bone cancer was an untraditional man: Navy officer who worked on a nuclear sub, newspaper columnist, pilot, cellist, fly fisher, civil-rights advocate, proponent of medical marijuana.

Among the mourners who spoke at his funeral were a hemp activist, a pair of University of Puget Sound law professors, a cello teacher, a state senator, and a state Supreme Court justice who had never met him. They all spoke passionately about the diverse interests they shared with Seeley. They talked about his humor, his stubbornness, his intellect and his pain.

A pilot remembered soaring over the Pacific Northwest with Seeley; a horse-riding buddy recalled long, peaceful trips with him before the cancer claimed Seeley's spine. With a smile on her face and tears in her eyes, a nurse imagined the combative Seeley bickering with St. Paul in heaven.

Those who oppose legalization of medical marijuana have dismissed the movement's members as one-dimensional buffoons looking for a quick and easy high. They argue that sick patients are better off using narcotics or synthetic marijuana pills. They claim these patients are being used by wealthy out-of-state millionaires pushing a radical drug-legalization agenda.

Nobody used Ralph Seeley. I remember sitting next to him during the taping of a public-affairs show last year. I will not forget his labored breath, his frail finger stabbing the air as he spoke against the callousness of the war on drugs. He broke awkward silences by citing reams of scientific data about the effectiveness of medical marijuana. He convinced me that nobody is better off when government policies make criminals out of men and women seeking self-determination, dignity and a little relief.

This quest for truth and justice was not a 30-minute, made-for-TV performance. It was - as his many friends, loved ones, and distant admirers will always celebrate - Ralph Seeley's life. - Michelle Malkin