The Foolishness of Eulogies
Coming from a different cultural background, I have always been baffled by the stupidity of eulogies. Think about it. You wait until the person is dead and gone. Then everyone who knew them, cared about them, come together and tell one another how much they cared for, respected, valued the person who is gone. What’s the point?
In the culture I grew up in we did things differently. My father’s passing is a perfect example. When he knew he was getting close to stepping from this wheel of life to the next, he called us all together. He took that opportunity to share with us his thoughts on life, living, how he felt about each of us, what he wished for each of us. In turn we were able to share with him how we felt about him.
The whole scene was one of calm, love and light. Once it was done he seemed to be at peace with everything and he gently passed on a few days later. The memorial service was short and sweet. The biggest thing about it was the give away and the food. He had made lovely wooden carvings, cribbage boards, clocks, etc. as well as hand painted t-shirts and tote bags which he sold at craft fairs. We put them all on a table and encouraged everyone to take something from the collection to remember him by.
Then, according to his wishes, we put half his ashes into my step-mother’s grave and took the other half to Halawa Valley on Moloka’i. There my husband and a group of male relatives paddled out and scattered his ashes in the ocean outside the mouth of the river.
I think Pop gave his stamp of approval because as the guys were paddling back to the beach a rather good sized fish flopped up onto one of my nephew’s surfboards and just stayed there. We took it as a sign and Pop’s contribution to the family BBQ that was about to take place on the beach in Pop’s honor.
So what brought all this contemplation on you may ask?
It’s because of one of my husband’s best friends, Joe. Back in April he was informed he had probably no more than to the end of this year to live. Colon cancer. He has faced the situation head on. He’s been open and up front about it with those he cares about and who care about him. He made the informed decision not to go through chemo or radiation. Rather, he has chosen to accept what is and live every day of the time left him to the fullest of his ability.
I admire this man. I don’t know him very well. I’ve only heard of his escapades from my husband, spent a few days with him several years ago and shared stuff on good old Facebook.
None of us gets out of life alive. By Joe’s example I have been given a road map of how to accept my mortality and make what time I have left as good as possible not only for myself but for those I care about. I have seen how you can be honest about what’s going on and make the acceptance of it by those I love a little easier. I have learned how to face the inevitable with dignity and humor.
Now why would I want to wait until Joe is dead and gone and then tell everyone else these things? I may not make friends for doing so, but I am going to tell him NOW, while he can know he has made a difference in someone’s life. I just hope everyone else will have the courage and love him enough to do likewise.