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Harris Blackwood: Respect and honor the departed and save the harsh remarks
Harris Blackwood

I’ve probably attended more than my fair share of funerals. In fact, I like a good funeral held for someone who lived a good life.

I know there are exceptions for evil dictators, mass murderers and the like. But those exceptions aside, I am reminded of the words of my late mama: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.”

Today, however, the ease of spouting off a few words on social media has made what used to be a dignified process a bit undignified.

Sen. John McCain was shot down over Vietnam while serving as a Navy pilot and was badly injured. He received poor medical treatment that left him with the inability to lift his hands above his shoulders. He walked with a gait because of botched surgery on his injured leg.

He was beaten by his captors and forced to say things against his will.

If you didn’t like something he did politically, the above referenced conditions are enough to gain you a pass on criticism when you die.

I once filled in playing the keyboard at a funeral for a guy who was shot in a bar. He didn’t have a pastor, so someone invited someone they knew to officiate at the service.

“I’m sorry your brother is in hell, “ the guy said right out of the starting blocks. 

If you’re relative is shot and killed in a bar fight, it’s a pretty good assumption that he was never cited for going to Sunday school too often. The preacher didn’t know him, he didn’t know if he was automatically hellbound.

Funerals are services to memorialize and celebrate one’s life. The funeral is for those who survive the departed person. There should be words of comfort to share the knowledge that God will help them through the grieving process.

I feel for the McCain family because their grieving will be played out on a national stage. If they want to cry, somebody makes a comment about it. Their every move is being chronicled.

As a society, we don’t do well with death. Most don’t know what to do or say. The comments that make me ill are, “I know what you’re going through,” and “Doesn’t he/she look natural?”

First of all, death is different for everyone. And no, there is no comparison for the life of your mother to the life of a pet. Your pet never wiped your nose or changed your diaper.

Second of all, no one looks natural in a casket.

For the McCains, our collective message should be that we are sorry for their loss, will pray for their comfort and that we are grateful for Sen. McCain’s service.

A family, who is burying someone they love and care about, shouldn’t have to read the stuff, some of which is false, that casts disparity on his reputation. It’s over. Let it go.

There are still people who are debating the outcome of the 2000 election and who has a birth certificate. It’s over. Let it go.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear Sunday.

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