Over the decades I have performed numerous funerals. The task was always basic – to honor (as best as possible) the deceased and to provide comfort and direction for the friends and family still alive.
That was it; there was no other agenda. Even as a minister, I did not use the occasion to “preach the gospel” unless the family asked me to do so (one time a family did request this).
Yes, we honor those who have passed. But the ceremony is not about us – it is not our platform. A funeral service was not my chance to shine. In fact, it would be considered inappropriate to use the occasion for any other purpose than the two mentioned earlier.
We have had three prominent deaths and public funerals recently that brought this to my attention – John McCain, Aretha Franklin and Mollie Tibbetts. It seemed as if people involved in all three funerals used the occasion to spotlight their opinions and talents.
Maybe that was OK; maybe that was what the family desired; or maybe not.
Have you given much thought to your funeral? Will you have one? Do you care? Here’s to the nobodies, the unknowns, who live and die and do not offer to the survivors a chance for them to spout off about themselves.
Emily Dickinson wrote, “I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you - Nobody - too?” The Beatles sang about the “Nowhere Man” and Springsteen in turn sang of the “Nothing Man.”
Finally, R.E.M. had a song titled “Hollow Man,” which in turn reminded me of T. S, Eliot’s assertion that “we are the hollow men” (this is the poem that ends “not with a bang but a whimper”).
Those three recent funerals ended up being not only about remembering the people who died, and they should have been. Ben Franklin said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” Otherwise, how soon we are forgotten…and that might be OK too.
Alexander Pope ends his ode on Solitude with these lines - “Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone. Tell where I lie.”
Here’s to the nobodies who quietly live a life of kindness and then steal away from this old world of meanness, selfishness and sin. Love to all.
Tom Rupp is a resident of Folsom and a weekly columnist in the Folsom Telegraph. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.