Funerals

Like many readers of this blog, I’m at “that” age–the age at which you experience what seem like weekly losses of long-time friends, acquaintances and family members.

Last Friday, I went to yet another funeral.

My deceased friend left an accomplished and loving family. He died after a lifetime of service–to his profession, which was (ironically) that of funeral director–and to his various communities: the Indianapolis Jewish community, of which he was a part, the political community (he was a longtime, passionate liberal Democrat), and especially and always the larger human community, for which he demonstrated infinite love and compassion.

It is a tired phrase, but so true of this particular individual: he never met a stranger.

What struck me during the service were the characteristics the clergy focused on (a number of them participated). One after the other, they remarked upon his integrity, praised his compassion, and admired his willingness to stand up for what he believed. They repeatedly noted that he was a man of his word–that no matter how difficult, if he made a commitment, he kept it.

If he gave you his word, you could “take it to the bank.”

To use an old-fashioned but entirely appropriate word, he was righteous. Yes, his smile could light up a room, his personality was warm and his laugh infectious–but he was also righteous. He was incredibly kind. He was unfailingly moral, but never judgmental.

He was righteous.

As I listened to the (entirely accurate) glowing eulogies, all I could think of was that as those in the (jam-packed) room mourned the loss of a good man, we continue to live in a country with a chief executive whose word is worthless, whose commitments are laughable, and who has displayed absolutely no connection to–or comprehension of– integrity or righteousness. At Trump’s funeral, no one will be able to say with a straight face that he was a good or loving– or even nice– person, let alone honorable or righteous.

There is a growing abyss in our country between truly admirable people (of whom there are more than we sometimes realize) and the empty and pitiable “captains of industry,” political posturers, and pious hypocrites who currently occupy positions of authority and power in this country.

My friend saw that abyss, and it troubled him greatly.

There were hundreds of people at my friend’s funeral. They had to put up a tent outside the capacious funeral home to accommodate the large and diverse crowd who were there to pay their respects to a man who exemplified the attributes of human kind we most admire–a man whose smiles and hugs reached into multiple neighborhoods and constituencies.

At the end of the day–and we are all closing in on the end of our days–the genuine affection of our fellow humans, the earned respect of our peers, and the honesty of a celebratory eulogy is all the success that any of us can really hope for. To repeat another hackneyed truth: we can’t take anything else with us.

It’s the memory of a life lived with integrity, love and compassion, not the trappings of power or wealth or celebrity, that ultimately matters. The hundreds of people who came to my friend’s funeral were there to comfort his family and mourn the passing of someone they genuinely cared about. I’ve been to a number of funerals where that wasn’t the case.

In the Jewish tradition, there’s a saying: may his memory be for a blessing.

Leaving a memory that is a blessing is beyond the ability of today’s self-engrossed wanna-be autocrats to achieve.

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “Funerals

  1. And that is what I have always thought was meant by the afterlife as taught by the Christian tradition in which I was raised. What does any of us leave, but the influence we have had on our family and friends who survive us. Your friends sounds like a wonderful man.

  2. Yesterday’s quote: “An underlying tenet of nonviolence, then, is that there are always options beyond either black or white (good or evil, etc) if we have the will to find a “third way.”

    Black and white are the Way.

    While Trump isn’t “righteous”, he’s part of our reality but there is so much more being done because of him.

    As a Taoist, one looks at energy and motion and direction. Trump’s idiocy has brought about many positives…not because of HIS leadership, but in SPITE of his poor leadership. There are many leadership styles and many kinds of leaders. There are many perspectives in the Universe.

    When getting the yin/yang portion of my tattoo, the darkened half hurt much worse than the light half, but without the dark half, there would be no balance or symmetry. Even the artist made a reference to the light and dark halves, “I guess we need both to make a whole.”

    From Wiki, “Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall.”

    Wisdom is everywhere!

    Your friend, Sheila, is merely undergoing a transformation. 🙂

  3. So sorry for your loss; Sheila, and the loss to his family and many friends. My best friend of many years died 14 years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, the funeral home had to use two large rooms to accommodate her family and many friends and they spilled over filling the entry area. She never understood why so many people loved her; which is one of the reasons she was so loved. Probably also true of your friend; those who give much in life are unaware of the good they do in their lifetime or the number of people they leave a lasting effect on, often simply in passing acquaintance. Being a funeral director himself left a lasting effect on those he served at the time of greatest need for understanding in their lives.

    Like Sandy, I believe that is how we live on, the memories we leave with others.

  4. When the Weaver’s hand threads the last strand, he leaves a legacy of beauty admired by so many long after. The Weaver is missed but we are reminded of his gifts present every where. Thank you, Shiela, for sharing a wonderful legacy left by a dear friend.

  5. I’m sorry for your loss and I’m sorry that the world has lost such a man. We need many more like him.

  6. Thank you for this loving tribute Sheila. Dad always respected you and enjoyed your wit and intelligence. We agree, his memory will forever be a blessing.
    Jennifer

  7. “It’s the memory of a life lived with integrity, love and compassion, not the trappings of power or wealth or celebrity, that ultimately matters. The hundreds of people who came to my friend’s funeral were there to comfort his family and mourn the passing of someone they genuinely cared about.”

    On the lighter side; and even with funeral directors there is a lighter side; they are after all real people. My family were friends with the Conkle’s; owners and funeral directors of Conkle Funeral Home in Speedway. Dad and John Conkle were golf and poker buddies; Dad was in the hospital near death for days, John came to visit when he began improving. Dad introduced him to his roommate, also a surgery patient. After shaking the man’s hand; John pulled a measuring tape out of his pocket and began measuring Dad. They are real people who leave many memories with their friends and families of their friends; not all are loss and sadness, they also leave happy memories and laughter to be remembered.

  8. Chris Hedges writes today, “Integrity Forged In Cages”. Go to Truthdig. He spoke at the graduation of incarcerated people.

  9. You are reminding me of a video tribute I did for my first boyhood friend when he died six years ago. I was amazing this morning when I found there had been over 6,000 views. I wish he could have seen it.

    Friends create memories and memories are the summation of our lives.

    https://vimeo.com/user3047378/baily

    Jim

  10. “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    ― Marcus Aurelius

    “Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”
    ― Marcus Aurelius
    ==============================
    Marcus Aurelius, called the Philosopher, was a Roman emperor (ruling from 161 to 180) and Stoic philosopher. His personal philosophical writings, now commonly known as Meditations, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy.

    If anyone had anything good to say about President Agent Orange at his eulogy, it would be lie, just like his life.

  11. For all who read Sheila’s piece today and are moved (even a bit) to think positively…let her memory of this person live with you as a powerful symbol of the core “right thingness” of what we think of as “humanity”, especially as we try to navigate the very troublesome waters of today’s US political waters. Are we going to spew hate for hate, anger for anger, dirty tricks for dirty tricks, etc.? Or are we going to put aside partisanship, ideology and unrealistic dreams of a perfect world to take on democracy’s pending demise by appealing to the better angels we believe drive the majority of us, even if that takes only “one small step for humankind”?

    What would Jesus do? What would Moses do? What would Mohammed do? What would Buddha do? Etc.

  12. Sheila – My condolences for the loss of your friend though both you and he gained by your mutual acquaintance. At age 92 and as Sheila suggests, I have experienced and am experiencing loss of friend and family one after another as well. I have had a close relationship with two boyhood chums, one a cousin and one a friend who lived across the street, and we dubbed ourselves as The Three Musketeers. I am the surviving Musketeer – the others went their way 12-15 years ago. I can relate to Sheila’s sense of loss, but I gained much from having known them, and I think the following is not unrelated to her positive experience in having known the funeral director.
    My story > Having survived car wrecks, WW II, typhoons and other narrow escapes, here I am (as described somewhere on the spectrum of Marcus Aurelius). So how to spend the remaining time and space allotted to me? Trying to fashion a decent future for those who succeed us, one now under attack by an unbelievably ignorant and inept piece of carbon in the Oval Office. As I tell anyone who will listen, I am too old to go up the hill bearing torches to throw the bad guys out, but that I can light the torches in the valley for those making the trip.

  13. Very well said, Lester. Amen. Thanks again, Sheila, for a message that leaves with hope, after all.

  14. I learned in boyhood the concept of heroes and have tried to maintain it since. I assume that if someone tried to be one they would fail because the qualifications are to live a life serving others only because it’s the right thing to do, not for reward.

    It’s exceedingly difficult to be a politician and a hero because it’s the nature of the job (like parenting) to have to disappoint as well as please and that’s why building relationships is the stock in trade of successful ones.

    Then there are Trumpublican politicians whose every move begins with what’s in it for me.

    Anti heroes. Villains. We must count on them being a minority and the majority of the country living lives unified by service to the greater good.

  15. Vernon,

    Trump’s funeral? When is it?

    Hopefully, he’ll commit suicide. Maybe he already has. It might be we’re witnessing a slow death, the symptoms of which, just aren’t recognized.

  16. “Goodness is its own reward.”

    It took me quite a few years to realize the core message of the New Testament (though hardly exclusive to that faith). Live without fear, my friends, and you will transcend mortality.

  17. Vernon,

    With regard to the prosecution of Trump in the “Court of Public Opinion,” I just downloaded an intriguing paper by Professor Emilie Gaillard at the University of Caen, located in Normandie, France. It’s entitled: “Crimes against Future Generations.” It falls in line with both of my .coms:
    FUTURCIDE AND FUTURECIDE.

    She and her group are carrying out the concept of CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY INTO NEW TERRITORY. They’ve been targeting Monsanto Chemical for the past few years, for its CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. Not a bad analogy. I’m on the same page with them, you don’t necessarily need to have a crime on the books to prosecute. If Monsanto is guilty, surely Donald Trump is.

    Who knows? Maybe a new crime WILL be promulgated. Stranger things than that have happened. Before the Holocaust, who would have expected the Nurenberg laws to have been put in place.

  18. Marv,

    There will be no such laws as the Nuremberg laws while Republicans exist.

  19. Thank you for forwarding this. It was the most moving eulogy I have ever read and no truer words were ever spoken. How lucky you were to have him in your lives. It’s no wonder you are such a special family.

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