Have you ever been to a funeral and wished that you were the one in the casket? I don’t mean because the person was close to you and you don’t know how you’ll carry on without him or her. I’m referring to the fact that some “homegoing” services are so laden with remembrances that are either too long or too boring – or both, that you’re tempted to say “Lord, take me now”.
A couple of years ago, we stopped calling them funerals and started referring to them as “celebrations of life”, because somebody probably thought it sounded better. In these celebrations, a good reader is found to regale us with the person’s entire life story – every numbered chapter and accompanying verse of it. This is the eulogy and most times, the person delivering it has the unenviable “task” of trying to hold the listener’s attention.
I enjoy a eulogy that doesn’t read like one. Since there are some services that I attend where I’m not intimately acquainted with the deceased, it’s nice to be able to get a good idea of who the person was when the people who knew him best tell us stories about him. Unfortunately some people don’t know which stories to tell and which ones to leave out.
Then there are others who’ve never heard that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, because it’s a special kind of person who can “tell it all” when the person of whom you speak is lying right next to where you’re standing. Sure, none of us is angel material, but I’m thinking that the wake is more properly the place to admit that he really used to “love ugly” and to talk about the ways he used to bad-play his friends.
Worse are the funerals where the person is really well known and seemingly everybody he ever knew is asked to say a few words. Unfortunately, the person charged with asking them to speak neglected to tell them how many words to use or how much time they had to use them. At a funeral I recently attended, every speaker mentioned the same milestone event-because it was bound to sound different coming from them.
If some of us are lucky, we’ll be able to plan exactly how we want our funerals to go. Our families will quite rightly want to celebrate us – but let’s ask them not to make the services too lengthy. We know you’re not rushing us, but let’s face it – we’ll already be pretty comfortable lying down.