What might your eulogy say about you?
The words spoken in honour of a life lived often tell a concise tale of the impression left on loved ones by the deceased.
The narration is often concise because only very small snippets of a lifetime can be captured in the space of half an hour or so, the amount of time which is often dedicated to praise and to pay tribute.
Popular culture now describes these mostly sombre occasions as ‘celebrations’. In most cases this description is apt.
I have sat in reverence through many ‘celebrations’ and I have shed my share of tears. Recently, at a celebration, I found myself amidst a sea of humanity. Each guest was gathered to pay their respects to the deceased and to support the family who had lost their most treasured possession, their husband, father, brother, grandfather…mate, friend.
My tears on that day were not for the dearly departed though. His life was long. He worked hard; he held impermeable beliefs and had notable principles. Together with his wife they gave life to their children and new generations now follow. Whilst he did succumb to an illness which takes one’s mind, the memories he shaped for his friends and family will live on.
I didn’t cry for him but I found myself smiling respectfully. As the anecdotes were recalled (some likely embellished), the stories of hardship and pain were interwoven with tales of remarkable acts of kindness and compassion.
My tears on that day were for the living.
Of course my tears were not for all living souls, but those souls who are living only for the here and now; those who hold that YOLO (you only live once) attitude.
Far too often this attitude implies selfishness rather selflessness, entitlement rather than restraint and implies look at me, not to me or with me. Why should we look to each other? Many instances spring to mind such as companionship, comfort, care and strength. We can find so much in another humanbeing if only we really look deeply.
On the surface this gentleman was a gregarious, happy and a half glass full kind of man. His compassion for others, his love of his work, his family and of nature will be his legacy.
He leaves more than that though as many of his generation and ilk have done.He has left a trail of good deeds, of random and remarkable acts of kindness, of generosity and a profound sense of community.
How many can say that they have opened their homes and their hearts to others to break bread and consume a warm beverage?How many of this current generation can, with hand on heart, say they have helped another human being because they could and wanted to; not because they expected something in return?
I listened intently to the eulogy and following that; the carefully chosen words re-counted family members. Through tears of overwhelming grief their love shone through.
It was however, when the celebrant related his childhood and adolescent memories of the deceased to those gathered, that I realised his words were more than an addendum to the eulogy. This man had narrated many eulogies over the preceding years but this tribute was different. This life lived touched many in so many ways and he too had been moved.
Some of those gathered had felt the hand of a kind and generous man upon them. Others though, would never have known the generosity or the kindness of the man, or never personally met the man himself.
Be it the orphans whose home received donations or the struggling families who might not have afforded bread who had warm fresh loaves placed on their tables…. be it those in the apiary community who were in awe of this man’s love of nature and natural intuition of when a plant might flower or when rain may come…many were touched by this man.
This man gave as many do. He was selfless, generous, respectful and dutiful. His acts of kindness and deeds of charity were always delivered in a genuine way; it was about giving not about what he might get in return. Although I do believe the fruits of his labour and his generosity were repaid by the sheer joy of giving.
What will your eulogy say about you?