Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Remember Thou Art Dust

This week I attended a funeral of someone I wasn't personally acquainted with, and I found myself listening closely to the eulogy -- not simply to gain an understanding of the deceased, but with the strange realization that one day I myself may be called upon to deliver a eulogy. This is not a morbid speculation. I have parents and siblings, any of whom, God forbid, may predecease me, and what would I say if I needed to get up and speak about their lives? Who would I chose to eulogize Darwin? Who would eulogize me*?

In a sense, that last question doesn't matter. I'll be dead. It doesn't really matter what I plan; I'll have no real control over my funeral. I could pick readings or music, but always with the understanding that anyone might change them, because I'm not coming back from the grave to interfere. Doubtless my family will try to respect my wishes, but if the priest refuses to allow the Dies Irae to be chanted, it's not as if I can complain to the management.

No one controls what happens after they're dead. There is no guarantee that people will tell the truth about my life when I'm gone. Of course, there's no guarantee that people won't tell the truth, which is perhaps more sobering. My children may dish about how much time I spend in front of the mirror with tweezers. My husband may reveal how many days he came home to find me having frittered away the afternoon without starting dinner. Other people may have less amusing anecdotes about the times I let them down. After death, I won't be there to defend myself -- and neither will I care. I'll be facing the judgment of God, more perfect than the judgment of men.

We think about our legacy, how we'll be remembered. That's foolish -- we'll never know how we'll be remembered. We hope that it will be with love and grief, as with the touching eulogy I heard this week from a devoted son about his father's full and loving life. But it may be that after death family will finally be free to stop covering for a legacy of sin and failure. Maybe the stories will out, and the hidden deeds come to light. Nothing can be tucked away forever. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).

Make your life your eulogy. Go to Confession, and actually turn over a new leaf. "Be sober and vigilant" (1 Peter 5:8). None of us controls what happens after we die, but if we live in God's charity and truth, we live in the joy of heaven while still on earth. No eulogy can compare to that.

*Actually, I'd request that there not be a eulogy at my funeral -- not because I want to manage what people say about me, but because it's not liturgically appropriate. Thanks in advance, fam.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

I am way behind on blog-reading but I have to say, belatedly: if they play On Eagles' Wings at my funeral I am rising up out of the coffin to bellow "Make it stoooop!"