Due to the passing of a friend of mine last summer, and my father (unexpectedly – the day BEFORE my friend) I have been thinking about funerals. Not obsessively or anything, just in passing. (Oops, no pun intended.)
I have attended fewer than a dozen funerals in my life, and frankly, they have been pretty much what you would expect. Pretty solemn. Rarely, someone who knew the departed would speak and elicit a little “acceptable” audience laughter.
My father’s service in late July changed my funeral paradigm. I wanted to speak, but my brain was not functioning. I have a whole new respect for family members who speak at funerals. There was not enough Valium in the world to get me through that experience.
Thankfully, friends of my father performed the eulogy. There were three speakers, all of whom were close to him and able to share fond memories. However, one individual in particular went above and beyond. Briggs grew up with dad in Maysville, Oklahoma and attended OU with him. He appreciated dad as a friend, an artist and a non-linear thinker. He was a gold mine. The man knew almost every embarrassing/hilarious story involving my father and was perfectly willing to share each of them with us. In church!
It was fantastic. Briggs was sometimes emotional while speaking, but fought his way through and delivered one story after another – zinger after zinger. I sat in the front row with my family, alternately wiping away tears and laughing so hard I thought I would fall off the pew. I cast a few nervous glances at the poor, unsuspecting minister, afraid he would walk out, and half hoping he would because Briggs was obviously editing out some good parts.
My friend’s funeral that afternoon was similar. Several speakers, all of whom knew her well and were able to tell stories that brought an amazing mixture of laughter and tears – an incredible gift – just when you thought you would never laugh freely again. It was such a relief to have a similar “vibe” to both services. That day we all agreed – family and friends – if we didn’t keep laughing, we would never stop crying.
If you don’t have a friend who can do this type of eulogy at your service, get some new friends. PAY someone. Hire them. Do whatever it takes. It is a tragedy to sit through a service that feels like one-size-fits-all.
How lucky my father was. And Leah. We should all be so blessed in our friends.
So, who’s doing your eulogy?
Here’s a link to some of Bill Rogers’ art work. (Gallery.)
Side note: I have Briggs’ typed and hand edited eulogy from the service and will treasure it. The stories he couldn’t tell, the paragraphs he crossed out, the words he highlighted as inappropriate for the venue. (Thank goodness.) Even a few sentences here and there directly addressed to my father. It’s the most hilariously inappropriate and yet heart-warming combination of emotions I have ever had the pleasure to read.