The day of the funeral was quite hot. I gave in to the local minhagim (customs) and wore a black suit. In a different time and place they would have asked me if I was dressed up in a poor imitation of Belushi and Akroyd, but not here.
Standing graveside in the California sunshine it was quite clear that I had a different role and a different purpose. Here I was part of the communal support that we offer the mourners. My job was to help my friend and his family say goodbye to a beloved father.
I listened to his children speak about him and smiled at the stories they told. I heard about a good man, a kind man, a family man, a mensch who went out of his way to improve the world around him. I witnessed the tears of the mourners and looked to my left and right.
At the age of 37 I have been to more funerals than I can count. I have helped to bury more than one friend and the parent(s) of more than one friend. The morbid checklist reads something like four fathers and three mothers are all gone now.
In short I have heard quite a few eulogies, but I have never heard an unkind word said about the deceased. Call me narcissistic but hearing them always makes me wonder what people will say about me.
Will they say good things. Will my memory be a blessing. Will they cry real tears or will someone think to themself that I never quite lived up to my potential, that I never quite climbed the ladder.
Will they be honest and talk about a man who was at times stubborn and intolerant. Will people hear the stories about the temper, or will it be couched in terms like (Jack was a real Taurus). What impression will those who never knew me come away with. What impression should they come away with.
I am quite honest with myself. Of course I want people to mourn the giant. Of course I want people to speak about the tremendous void that my absence will create, a hole that cannot be filled. Who wouldn’t want their ego stroked this way.
You know, a lawyer friend of mine once told me that he advised against writing these types of posts because you never knew when someone might try to use your words against you, but I digress.
Here is the most important thing to me. Here is what must be said at my funeral or I will have failed:
“He loved his family and was a good father.”
That is it, the rest is commentary.