Unhappy Endings

“Joe was a good person. A renaissance man. Much loved by his family and friends.” And, in just a few seconds, made Joe’s 83 years seem almost generic, although his life was far from it. His accomplishments were made trivial. And the mourners patronized.

Funerals are a twisted tribute. We sit on horribly uncomfortable benches in our most uncomfortable, colorless clothes in middle age settings listening to dark ages music moderated by people who, except for one day a week, do these things for living. These preachers and priests and rabbis talk about people they hardly know while reminding us that we need to get ready to meet the same fate.

Then we get in our cars and drive in line behind the hearse with our lights on to a park designed not for the living, but to stand, regardless of the weather, quietly and contemplate merits of a wooden versus metal coffins versus cremation or body donation, only to get back in our cars to go to a place where we drink, if we are lucky, and eat and tritely comfort each other by changing the subject.

Sure, there are some services where family and friends share stories. Photos are displayed. Favorite music added. Flowers are tossed. Bagpipers play. Rifles are fired. Statues unveiled. Jets overfly. And checks are written to favorite causes. But for most of us, we sit silently sad and uncomforted. The innovations for this tired ritual are minimum and mundane. Online obits. Memories on DVD and YouTube. Stories of sadness on Facebook. Virtual cemeteries.

Joe was a very good person. Joe was a renaissance man. Joe was loved and will be missed. Joe did accomplish much. Traveled widely. Mentored many. Entertained more. Created wealth and enriched others. Made many laugh. Joe deserved better, but what?

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