I’ve written and delivered a few eulogies over the years. Two for Dad, one for Mom, a lot of others written as tributes to fallen friends that didn’t get delivered at funeral services. I can string words together fairly well and do so regularly as gifts to friends, loved ones or to express stray ideas that haunt me. I’m also a rabidly morbid fellow. I think about my death a lot.
You know that question doctors ask, “Do you think about your own death?” The first time I was asked that I was dumbfounded; I mean, who doesn’t? (Just for the record I am not suicidal. “Thinking” does not equal “planning.”) Death weighs heavily upon my mind.
Cycling to work on a chilly, rainy November day the question of who will write my eulogy popped into my head. Who indeed? My wife? Our sons? My siblings? Our grandson, should I live that long?
Nobody spells OCD better than I do and the writing of my eulogy kept scratching at my door, accompanied by the sound of a cold, wet puppy whimpering beneath that stormy November sky, begging to be let in. Finally, I relented. I mean, what kind of beast would leave that puppy to suffer?
A eulogy is not an obituary. An obit consists of the details of one’s life; date and place of birth, parents’ names, siblings, spouse or significant other(s), preceded in death by, a list of offspring and details that include occupation, joys, hobbies, places lived and perhaps cause of death.
I know there are people who can and will write a better obit for me than I would. Detail oriented people. My wife comes to mind, should God show mercy on me and take me before her. Or perhaps my sisters, if I pass before they do. I can see Linda and Sue sitting side by side together, heads nearly touching, editing the words just so, smiling, laughing and crying as they write and edit. No doubt they’ll ask our eldest sib Steve to peruse it and after reading it he’ll nod and say, “Looks good to me.” Tell the truth now, hermanas! Don’t embellish, don’t cover up for me.
A eulogy is more poetic, more thematic than didactic. I wanna write my own eulogy. When we were in high school and my brother Greg and I would argue he liked to get underneath my skin by throwing out the non sequitur, “You always have to get the last word; don’t you?” Vicious, isn’t it? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
What better way to get the last word than to write one’s own eulogy? (Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t a non sequitur.)
I’d start off my eulogy with a zinger:
I was born to Puritans who loved to dance and their beliefs shaped me. Joy was encouraged, but only the bridled type; no unbridled anything in the Kenel household of my youth!
I spent my early years as the squarest of pegs desperate to fit in round holes. Eventually I gave up trying to be what I was not and came to simultaneously lovingly embrace, while being continuously frustrated with, the me I was. I was fond of saying, “I really like me, I’m just glad the world’s not full of people just like me.”
There are few people in this world who find a more complementary mate than I did. The phrase, “Opposites attract,” holds true for magnets and my wife and I were opposite in more ways than could be enumerated in a day. We were both different from the norm, different from one another and completely dedicated to our life-long partnership. I was fond of saying, “There’s always a winner and a loser in every marriage and I know who the winner is in ours.” Me. I was the winner. I got the grand prize while Pat got the booby prize.
And she gave me children. Two sons, and a grandson, the three most important people in my life after my wife. After our first son Kevin was born I realized that he had supplanted me in her hierarchy of love and twenty-six years later Kevin was supplanted by his son John. After our second son Sean was born but before nieto John came around I wasn’t sure who was number one and who held the number two spot in her heart, but I know who’s number one now: John is. Kevin and Sean seem tied for runner-up and I remain at bottom billing. That’s okay. I still got to be her most beloved that was not her progeny.
Being highly empathetic and slightly autistic wasn’t an easy combination and I loved many from afar. Here’s to everyone who showed up today. Remember to be kind to one another even when you disagree, we’re the only folks we’ve got.
I always like to reference a song when writing a eulogy. For my own I’m going to leave you with one of Paul Simon’s lesser known works, Sparrow.
Who will love a little Sparrow
Who’s traveled far and cries for rest?
“Not I,” said the Oak Tree
“I won’t share my branches with no sparrow’s nest
And my blanket of leaves won’t warm her cold breast”
Who will love a little Sparrow
And who will speak a kindly word?
“Not I,” said the Swan
“The entire idea is utterly absurd
I’d be laughed at and scorned if the other Swans heard”
And who will take pity in his heart
And who will feed a starving Sparrow?
“Not I,” said the Golden Wheat
“I would if I could, but I cannot, I know
I need all my grain to prosper and grow”
Who will love a little Sparrow?
Will no one write her eulogy?
“I will,” said the Earth
“For all I’ve created returns unto me
From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be”
Thanks, Earth, for welcoming me home.