BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

© John Denney 15 August 2005

EULOGIES

 

Last Friday saw the funeral of Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, who died suddenly in Scotland.  There is a growing custom for some among the friends and family of the deceased to deliver a eulogy.  A eulogy literally means “well speaking” – saying good things about the person.  It’s not the done thing to say unkind things.  And at Robin Cook’s funeral, many fine words were indeed said about him.  One of the speakers was John McCririck, a horseracing friend of Mr Cook’s.  But he shocked the congregation and upset the family by berating the Prime Minister for being absent from the funeral.  It was an unseemly,  discordant moment among the affirmations of love and regard from those who spoke.

 

Unvetted eulogies are dangerous things.  At one funeral, someone said, “Let us give thanks that the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, took our dear sister to heaven, thereby proving his benevolence and love for us all”, which perhaps wasn’t what the speaker intended to say.

 

And in one small village there was a man who was universally detested because he had lied to everyone, had insulted everyone, and had cheated many of the village.  The minister from a nearby town came to lead his funeral.  He said “I didn’t know the deceased.  Would someone who knew him please come forward to say a few words?”  No one moved.  He repeated the question again, and a third time.  Eventually, one man grudgingly got up and delivered an honest, complimentary and brief eulogy.  “His brother,” the man said before going back to his seat, “was even worse!”

 

Funerals are principally designed to bring comfort to the family and friends of the deceased.  They celebrate the life of the dead person, and remind those left behind of the good and happy times they shared with them.  And the comfort funerals provide, at least for the Christian, is that they remind us that death is not the end; that it is just a doorway from one part of life to another; the closing of chapter 1 and the opening of chapter 2.  And as we all know that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, one day we’re all going to have a funeral.  The interesting question is: what are your friends going to say about you?

 

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