I can’t imagine anything worse than having to deliver a eulogy, but recently, it happened to me. Now, I hate funerals, and will do nearly anything to escape attending them. Unfortunately, the bereaved family was under the mistaken impression that I was a close friend of the deceased; and what do you say when a teary-eyed daughter drops in and practically begs you to say a few words? I am neither strong enough of heart nor honest enough in spirit to refuse such a request based solely upon the fact that I detested the fellow with every fiber of my being. So, coward that I am, I reluctantly agreed.
After she left, I set about, pen in hand and a ream of white bond at my elbow, to write something that accentuated the meager good points about this person. I wracked my brain. Hours passed. Ashtrays grew full. Wastebaskets overflowed with hundreds of false starts.
The funeral was the next afternoon. By 2:00 AM, I still had nothing. Finally, I threw premeditation to the wind, preferring sleep to self-inflicted baldness.
The day of the funeral was, well, funereal. The sky was heavy with the promise of thunder and inside the funeral parlor the organ music rose and fell like a queasy stomach.
My blank mind and I made our way to the lectern. I gazed out at a sea of puddly eyes, cleared my throat, and began.
“We are here today to bid farewell to Fred, who could always be depended on for a good word – and every now and then, a complete sentence.
“He went out of his way to help little children, and, to this day, I think the charges filed by their parents were trumped up. The white slavery ring rumor was pure nonsense, too. Fred never discriminated on the basis of color. If you could do the job, you were OK with Fred.
“I think the most impressive thing about Fred was his fashion sense. Houndstooth capri pants, argyle knee socks, wing tips, and an “I’m with Stupid” sweatshirt is a look that not everyone can pull off; but on Fred, it was perfection.
“Fred was also a financial wizard. He bought his Ferrari by being thrifty with his janitor’s salary, and had nothing to do with that bank robbery. The public is too quick to judge these things, and law enforcement too willing to make arrests.
“And let’s not forget all the community service that Fred has performed. True, it was part of the sentencing, but community service is community service, and should be recognized and applauded.
“But now, Fred has laid his burden down. His troubles are over, as are those of the entire town. Fred’s death has not been in vain. People can now remove the bars from their windows. Merchants can holster their handguns. Children can play outside again. And all because we are here today. The entire community owes Fred a great debt of gratitude.