Have you ever wondered why people say that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead? Maybe it’s because they can’t talk back and actually set the record straight. Whatever the reason, funerals are normally filled with glowing tributes to the one who has passed on.
I do remember one exception though. The life of the young man, who died when he had been expected to recover from an operation, was laid out – just as he was in the church. While his many attributes were praised, we came away from his funeral knowing that he was imperfect as we all are. And while this was actually a refreshing change, I had to admit that it was a little too much information.
Because I didn’t need to know that his seven children were not all with the same woman. I didn’t need to hear that he was a less than obedient youth. I didn’t want to know that he sometimes skipped school and talked back to his mother. His sister all but said that she feared for his immortal soul since he didn’t appear to have come around to her way of thinking, so I guess the goodbye would have been particularly painful for her.
I ended up feeling just a tad uncomfortable – for him – and he couldn’t even hear her. But since funerals, while they celebrate the dead, are really for us who remain alive, maybe that’s exactly what she intended. Just like the preachers who rain down fire and brimstone on the captive audience, since it might be a while before they see that many people again.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey said that she sees the death of someone as a signal to turn up the volume in our own lives. Yes, it’s important to live fully, and to do all the things we want to do, but one thing death shouldn’t have to remind us to do, is to make amends. It already has enough to carry. Why should it carry our regrets too?