An old song from the 1930s is “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.” The song is about the parting of lovers. The singer asks the other to speak nicely of them or not at all.
That’s pretty good advice.
I think it is even more valid when someone is dead.
I attended a funeral years ago for a man who had been shot and killed in a bar. The preacher, hired just for the occasion, didn’t mince words.
“I’m sorry that your family member is in hell,” he said, right out of the starting blocks.
It remains one of the most memorable lines I’ve ever heard at a funeral. Let me say at the outset, I’ve been to my fair share of funerals.
There are those among us who believe preaching involves incessant shouting, even at funerals.
Some of them pepper their preaching with a periodic guttural utterance that often comes out “huh!”
Those attending the funeral may be hard of heart, but I don’t think they are hard of hearing, at least not all of them. I don’t need anyone to shout at me when someone I know has died…huh!
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a funeral without a coat and tie. I just think if you’re performing the last act of memoriam to someone, you should wear a tie. That’s just my opinion.
I like when a family member or someone close to the person tells a good story of their life. It often is a nice closing chapter to a life well lived.
Before you leave this earth, you might have the opportunity to compose your printed obituary. I’m beginning to think that’s a really good idea.
Two true stories out of North Carolina come to mind.
Larry Darrell Upright died in 2015. In his newspaper obituary, his family included one final request on Larry’s behalf. “The family respectfully asks that you do not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016,” they wrote. Larry was a loyal Republican and it seemed fitting.
More recently came the obituary of June Miller, who died in February of this year. June, according to her death notice, lived a troubled life and somebody in her family let her have it … in writing.
“Drugs were a major love in her life,” the obituary stated. “June had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life.”
I’ve known folks who had lots of reasons to be angry with someone who had died, but this was downright vicious. I’ve known folks who have left secret notes to a departed person in their casket. I used to think that wasn’t a good idea, I’m having second thoughts.
While that old song was written about broken love, it kind of fits.
“And listen, if you can’t say anything real nice
It’s better not to talk at all is my advice
We’re parting, you go your way I’ll go mine.”
There just comes a time that if you can’t find something good to say, keep your mouth shut. After writing that sentence I just may put that on my tombstone.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and www.gainesvilletimes.com.