Somewhere Between the Ridiculous and the Sublime

Life events can often start with the best intentions and wind up in tragedy. Or start in darkness and end up…well, somewhere else. This story is the latter.

I met Jeremi Kirkhart on the first day of new hire training at my current job. It was July 19, 2010. He was an imposing figure, the kind of person by appearance alone that would cause you to cross the street if he were walking toward you. He was tall, not six feet, bald, with a thick black moustache and goatee. It was in talking with him that the concept of Appearance vs. Reality came to light. He was thirty-three. He was a single father with full custody of his daughter who he adored. He was an avid reader. He had a dry sense of humor. And he had a mastery of language where he could turn a phrase so easily. He wrote but sparingly.
I made some attempts over the last year to get together with him for anything creative or artistic. Writing a book or a play. Making a short film. Anything. I felt as though that whatever project we would initiate would be something outrageous and fantastic.

The opportunity is now gone. A little over a week, Jeremi Kirkhart died of a massive heart attack at the age of thirty-four. The world around him, the family and friends that were his circle, is lessened by his passing.

My co-worker, Jennifer Dale, had worked with Jeremi at a previous job. He was to have officiated at her wedding in April, 2012 since Jeremi was ordained in the Universal Life Church. She asked me to take his place.

“Wow!” is the first thing that comes into your mind because you are being asked to do something very significant for an individual as well as take the place of a really wonderful man. When I got home that night, my wife recognized the honor that I had been given. But she reminded me in all of this to stay true to who I was. If an online religious certification meant embracing values that were not my own, I would not be honoring anyone.

I am Jewish and as such, any organization that proclaimed Christian concepts would not be a match for me. On top of that, I would be insulting and mocking those who did hold those particular values dear to them.

A simple Google search: HOW DO I BECOME AN ORDAINED MINISTER ONLINE. There were plenty of results, which may not surprise many people. I started clicking on web sites. Finally there was one that struck me as being more suited to my mentality.


For those who have seen the movie The Big Lebowski, it will be easier to conceptualize. Their website describes it as “an ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness.” How cool is that?

So for Jennifer’s sake, I became ordained. Upon receiving confirmation via e-mail, I forwarded it to her. At work the next day, knowing that I was Jewish, she dubbed me as “Rabbi” Dude.

In discussing this with my neighbor, the Rev. Cindy Watson who IS the actual pastor of West Heights United Methodist Church here in Wichita, she advised me that in the state of Kansas ANYONE can officiate at a wedding. Nevertheless, I will not take my ordination lightly.

For Jennifer, who is venturing into marriage, and for Jeremi, who deserves recognition and remembrance, on certain solemn occasions, I will embrace my alter ego, “Rabbi” Dude.



  1. November 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Do what I did. Universal Unitarian. All faiths welcome.


  2. November 20, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    The Dude abides. Glad you were able to find a ray of humor in your own method of remembrance. That’s far out, man.


    • tikiman1962 said,

      November 22, 2011 at 8:21 pm

      We always think of remembering someone with tears. Why NOT with laughter?


  3. November 20, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. But I love that something so outrageous, and that he would surely have approved of, resulted.


    • tikiman1962 said,

      November 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      ‘Outrageous’ is the ideal word. And, yes, I think he would have been proud.


  4. November 20, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Such things are bittersweet. I’m sorry for your loss of a dear friend and yet I’m also very excited for you to officiate the wedding in your friend’s stead. Many blessings!


    • tikiman1962 said,

      November 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm

      I am actually quite excited, thrilled, and a wee bit nervous. But it is about six months away. And then, after that, I’m ready to start doing more weddings.


  5. Cathy said,

    November 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    so, of course, first, i am sorry about the loss of your friend, and 2nd, where is is daughter now?

    and third, Unitarian Universalism covers all theologies, but i don’t think you can become an instant minister online. we have Harvard Div, etc for that.


    • tikiman1962 said,

      November 24, 2011 at 10:14 am

      First, thank you. Second, his father is still living and I believe the girl is with him. Thank goodness. Third, instantaneous, spur of the moment, AND it seemed to fit. The Dude abides.


  6. lawrenceez said,

    November 26, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Hi, sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. Seems a very young age.


  7. Thomas Van Gorder said,

    January 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    This was very inspirational. Dianna and myself will be sure to have you officiate at our renewal of our vowels.


  8. April 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Greetings fellow Wichita Dudeism Minister


    • H.B. Berlow said,

      April 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      I am glad you found me. I’ve sent a friend request via Facebook and would be interested in hearing of your Dudeist ways. But that’s just, like, my opinion.


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