30 DAYS TO BE A BETTER MAN: (21) WRITE YOUR EULOGY

ROTTERDAM – There was a dramatic pause that lasted slightly too long, as if everyone was half-heartedly expecting a quiet thumbing resonating and some muffled protests from the wooden casket that was so charmingly the center of everyone’s current attention span. ‘(…) and ’tis on this day we bury our beloved friend, brother, son, cousin, lover (soulmate if he’s -sorry, was – lucky), acquaintance, that friend-of-a-friend with whom you never really quite got along although you’re kind of supposed to like each other, and that guy that you dated oh-so-very-briefly, and, -did I forget anyone?-‘

It’s something all of us have imagined at one time or another. What would it be like to die and attend our own funeral? Who would be there? How many people would come? Will the woman who spurned our love be devastated and finally realize how great we were? Will someone you thought you were close with be surprisingly composed?

And of course the thing we wonder about most is this: What will people say about me? What will people remember about my life and how I treated them? How will I be eulogized?

However morbid this might sound (and it does sound slightly morbid), I am quite positive this is a fantasy most of us have had. Probably at moments when you were feeling exceptionally sorry for yourself, and knowing that all of those that wronged you, and hurt you, and treated you badly, would twist and turn and cry, and dramatically curse God over your dead body does make you feel slightly better about yourself.

Now that we have tackled the universality of fantasising about your own funeral, today’s task is to take that macabre circus and prolong the funerality of the entire whambam. I was going to say that we’re going to put this fantasy into practice, but I don’t want to sound like I am suggesting a suicide pact here.

Today (…) we’re going to write our own eulogies. Our society does a bang up job of hiding death from our view and many of us live in a state of denial about the fact that we’ll one day be pushing up daisies. But we all will. Acknowledging this fact can help us concentrate on living each day with purpose. Even if we live until we’re 9o, that day will arrive faster they we can imagine. Life is short: carpe diem!

There seems to be a contradictio in terminis here. The question we want so desperately answered is: how will I be remembered? or more specifically how will I be eulogised? Writing it yourself does defeat the purpose of this entire exercise, I reckon. A genuine moment of remembrance cannot come from the one you are mourning. It really does not work that way.

They say that the moment before you die, your entire life flashes in front of you. I imagine that the time in between being hit by a freight train and dying is relatively short, so let’s assume it only covers the highlights. A eulogy works like that, too, only it only touches upon the positive highlights. You obviously can’t talk about how Danny used to be a bit of a dick sometimes or how Vivian would really rub you the wrong way, whilst naming specific examples of when people acted like a complete asshat.

Don’t speak ill of the dead, they say.

On the other hand, if the moment feels right, you can make a teary joke to remind everyone what a funny person the deceased was.

The point of this exercise, I imagine, would then be to review those positive highlights and figure out whether you’d have enough to fill at least a 30-minute speech. After that, people are going to drift off anyways, and you’d want them to listen attentively, of course. A powerpoint presentation seems a bit out-of-place in my opinion, so without visual aids, maybe 20 minutes top.

With 24 years and counting I don’t think my list is very impressive. Which is good because it gives me the opportunity not to die and add stuff to it before I decide to get about dying. Good thing that the Art of Manliness takes the average age of its readers into account and advices us that we should just invent 70 years of living to give the speech a bit more body.

Step 1: 

Sit down and imagine that you lived until you were 90 and then passed away. Now picture what you did during your 9 decades of life. Where you lived, who you loved, how you acted. This is your life as you hope to have lived it. Jot down some “memories” of yourself (…)

Such as:

Did you win any awards or accomplish any noteworthy feats?

or:

What was most memorable about you? Your zany sense of humor? Your delicious cooking? Your insatiable love for adventure? Your passion for the outdoors? Your unshakable faith?

If you’re already getting teary-eyed about how awesome of a person you will be in 60 years and how much people will miss the you in adult diapers who can’t remember the names of their grandchildren, I’ve got a bunch more for you:

What was it about you that people admired most? Your unwavering loyalty to friends? Your honesty? Your work ethic? Your love for you family? Your patience? Your leadership?

What will people miss most about you? The creative homemade gifts you gave every Christmas? What a good listener you were? The handwritten letters you sent to friends? The way you could turn every mishap into something to laugh about?

Step 2:

Now you’re going to take all of the ideas you just jotted down and coalesce them into a finished project.

Now, if you’re still confused about how exactly this relates to being a Real Man or a Modern Man or any other kind of Man I’ve been spelling with a capital “M”, then sit back, read, and enjoy the sample eulogy that was provided by the Art of Manliness:

Carl Johnson was a true New Yorker. He was born in the city in 1978 and he never truly left. Although he traveled the world extensively, and lived at times in other places, he always came home to the Big Apple. He said the city was truly in his blood, and there was never any doubt about where he would retire. Carl grew up in the Bronx and showed his propensity for adventure early on when he snuck out of the house and rode the subway all over the city at the tender age of 8. Carl’s parents were terrified; Carl was delighted.

Carl went to school at NYU and studied journalism. He wanted to be another Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. He worked for several smaller papers, always burning the midnight oil, always hot on the trail of the next big story. He landed his dream job when he was hired by the New York Times to work in their Washington bureau. He loved politics. He loved getting to the bottom of the wheeling and dealing that went on behind the scenes. Most of all, he loved to uncover corruption. He was an idealist that believed that that one man could help change the government by exposing the dark things to the light. It was his work in this capacity that won him the Pulitzer prize for his story on the bribery going on in the Department of Natural Resources.

While Carl loved his work, he loved his family more. He married Cindy, the love of his life in 2001. They were as close and in love as any couple I’ve ever met, two veritable peas in a pod. In reference to Cindy, he said to me several times, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” Together he and Cindy had two beautiful children, Robert and Elizabeth. He adored those kids. No matter how busy things got at work, Carl was always there at his children’s activities. Of all his life’s great accomplishments, Carl was most proud of the splendid people his children turned out to be.

Although he settled down, Carl never gave up his adventurous spirit. The places he traveled are too numerous to list. He wanted to see every corner of the world and pretty well succeeded in doing so. He camped in Alaska, rode an elephant in Egypt, and canoed the Amazon. He had a long bucket list of things he wanted to accomplish, and he did all of them before he finally did kick the bucket.

I can unequivocally say that Carl was the best man I knew. He combined a carpe diem-attitude with faithfulness to his family and an untarnished professionalism at work.  Everything Carl did, he did with integrity. 20 years after I had loaned him 50 bucks, he came across an IOU for it, written on a post-it note and stuffed in a shoebox. I had long since forgotten about the loan, but Carl came to my house that very day to repay me. He was also loyal, almost to a fault. Whatever jam someone was in, no matter how busy Carl was, he would drop everything to come help them. He would give anyone the shirt off his back. Yet while his principles were rigid, he was no stiff. He was the only person to ever make soda come out of my nose. He could find humor in absolutely every situation.

I will miss so many things about Carl. I’ll miss his mighty bear hugs. He was not a man ashamed of hugging. I’ll miss the blueberry pancakes he made me whenever I came to visit. I’ll miss his unflagging optimism. There was no such thing as a bad day for Carl, just challenges that had to be faced and overcome. I’ll miss the great book recommendations he gave me; he always seemed to know just what I would love. I’ll miss the site of him roaring up on his motorcycle, smiling his ever boyish grin. Most of all I’ll miss how full of life he was. Whenever I was with him, I somehow felt more alive. Now that’s he’s gone, I can’t feel that firsthand anymore, and yet his legacy continues to spur me to seize the day.

I will miss Carl too.

Man-meter: writing your own eulogy is self-congratulatory and defeats the purpose of an actual eulogy. So no way I’m going to write one about myself. No manliness to be found here.

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