Count me among the legions of people who want to speak at their own funeral. I imagine there will be a few folks who could get up and say nice things about me when I’m gone, but I feel especially qualified to comment on my greatness, mainly because so many if not all of the great things I did in life I did without witnesses. Like think.
Being a great thinker is going to come in handy if, as I suspect, I will be alone with my thoughts into eternity, as opposed to being sentenced to some cartoon-like setting with people walking around in robes telling St. Peter jokes.
The appealing thing about speaking at your own funeral, of course, is the amazing potential for immodesty. At that point it’s a wrap, so let it all hang out I say. And while I’m doing that, you can bet I’ll be taking attendance. After all, who’s at your funeral is as important as what you say.
Obviously I’m aware of the challenge here. When you speak at your own funeral you have to expend so much energy convincing people you’re dead, where do you find the firepower to convince them you’re great?
Yet calling everyone together while you’re alive to celebrate your death probably isn’t worth the risk of embarrassment if people choose, for instance, to go to Rotary that day instead of your pre-funeral.
So, then it occurred to me that people should write their own eulogies and post them on the World Wide Web. In my case, because I don’t have the technical skills to launch anything on the Web, I’m going to utilize my position as CEO (Chief Egotistical Officer) of Lam & Associates and commander corporate resources for the purpose. If you came to this site for public relations advice, proceed with your navigation. We’re all very much alive.
But back to being dead for a second. If the assignment of my eulogy were handed out with vials of truth serum, I’m afraid the only person who would dare contribute would be Roger Kullenberg. Roger thinks I’m cool, but the theme of his report, as my long-time mentor, would be that he taught me everything I know. So the heavy lifting would really be up to me. And in the brief time I’ve allowed myself to write this tribute to my own personal greatness, it has occurred to me that I’ve used the term “great” a bit too loosely.
If you’re going to call yourself great, you should be able to define the term, and I define greatness as an uncompromising service to others.
The only two great people I’m even aware of are a Parchment couple who adopt and care for children who have multiple handicaps. As one willing to pay exorbitant green fees in Palm Springs, who enjoys sitting on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns and who occasionally overdabbles in Merlot, I have few delusions about my contributions to humankind. I also escaped even honorable mention in the rich, famous, important and influential categories.
But the Number One No-No in eulogies is to suggest one’s life had no meaning. And doing so is not my nature anyway. In fact the point of my eulogy is that one CAN find meaning in life by refusing to suggest that life MUST have meaning. To my family members, friends and colleagues who suggest there is something called “fate,” you are wrong! There, I said it. (Death is so liberating!)
Those who seek order in the ways of the world are consistently disappointed because they’re incapable of defining that order.
Those of us who not only accept, but also seek absurdity are blessed to get glimpses of beautiful patterns emerging, perhaps, from God’s plan. Who knows what forces are turning the grand kaleidoscope?
So, in the absence of a master plan for one’s life, how is one’s performance measured? By association, I suspect. I am the son, sibling and spouse of accomplished people. College towns and respectable institutions reflect our values. Art and music shape our moods. Exercise and diet define our shape.
After that, I think it’s just a matter of minding your manners. Keeping your nose clean. Goethe said it all: “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”
To work, love, laugh and taste the modest pleasures of life is going to have to be good enough for those of us who, in unspectacular fashion, enjoyed time in a spectacular world.
We punctuated the meaning of our existence with rituals. We’ll watch one son get married next month, another next year, and time will march along with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, retirements, more weddings and more funerals.
And in the end we’ll understand the punch line to the greatest joke of all, when the man, seeking the meaning of life, says to the monk deep in the Himalayas, “you mean to tell me that I gave up my wife and family, my job, walked through these mountains for 15 years to find you and sat by your side for another 15 years., only to have you tell me that life is a deep well?”
And the monk replied, “It isn’t?”