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Gilding the lily

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Do you ever wonder what people will say about you when you're gone? I do. Especially, when I attend a funeral and eulogists wax effusively about the mega-qualities of the deceased. Or when I read something like Joe Soucheray's column in last Monday's Pioneer Press. Soucheray wrote about Jeanne Jugan who founded the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order dedicated to taking care of the elderly. Jugan has been granted sainthood. Proof of a miracle is required for canonization: prayers to Jugan on behalf of a cancer-stricken man not only cured him but he lived another 20 years. This is what I'm talking about -- Jeanne Jugan died 120 years ago and people still sing her praises.

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I often speak of the two funerals I attended back in the 1990s. One of the de-ceased I knew through work. I'd sold her and her husband cars; her mother, too. The other was the sister-in-law of a long-time friend. The women, flight attendants in their 40s, passed away within a short time of each other. Both had breast cancer, were flight attendants, had young children and from what I learned at the funerals, were perfect. Never missed a friend's birthday or had a mean thing to say about anyone. They were good mothers, good housekeepers, and hard workers. They cared.

While it's my firm belief everyone should aspire to sainthood, or saintly behavior, I fall short. My beatification is not in the cards. In fact, when people say, "Pray for me, will you, please?" I tell them they'll have better luck if they find someone a bit closer to the Right Hand to intercede on their behalf. It's not that I don't pray. I just don't do it well enough to heal the sick or turn water into wine. Much as I've tried.

But I do remember loved ones' birthdays and offer to bring over food when a friend is ill; send sympathy cards, get well cards and hand-written notes for occasions that don't have cards. But I've lived so many years longer than the flight attendants; I should have better credits to my name. Something to show for my 60, 70, or hopefully, 80-plus years. Like my neighbor. Not only is she generous with greeting cards, gifts, and goodies from her oven, she serves food for funerals at her church and helps in the home economics classroom of her grandchildren's school. It may not be enough for canonization but for sure, she'll have a good send off when her time comes.

Me, I'll have to arrange something beforehand. You know, like when my father knew the end was near. Dad wrote his own obituary and chose a church and pastor for the service. I'll have to take it a step further. To insure people don't doze off at my funeral, I'll have to pen my own homage; fabricate a fare-thee-well of virtues and good deeds. Anyone who knows me would choke on the embellished eulogy so I'll have to pay a stranger to deliver it. As if a funeral isn't expensive enough.

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