We tend to make our lives complicated, at least I do, but the older I get, the more convinced I’ve become that life is really pretty simple. We live, we die — some people live longer, others shorter. It’s really that simple.
Yes, I know, a pretty unemotional view, but in the grand scheme of things: it really is a fact of life that we all need to make the most of our precious time. And boy is it ever precious. The individual seconds seem to take forever, while the years seem to race past in one big blur.
With that in mind, I tuned in late yesterday to watch former President George W. Bush choke back tears during his emotional eulogy for his father:
“So through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you – a great and noble man, the best father, a son or daughter can have. And in our grief, let us smile knowing that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.”
I was touched by his words for former President George H. W. Bush, but my messed-up brain works differently than most people. I couldn’t get out of my mind how funerals pose a challenging problem. You’re vulnerable. You’re at an emotional low point, but yet you need to sum up the life of someone important to you and many others in a few simple words.
It’s not an easy task, but when done right, it’s poetry to the ears and a natural release for everyone who loved the deceased. I couldn’t help but think about how some of our favorite movies have handled the challenge. Four Hollywood movie examples jumped out at me:
—Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
William Shatner as Captain Kirk summed up the life of his stoic friend Captain Spock in a one loving sentence: “Of my friend, I can only say this, of all the souls I’ve encountered in my travels, his was the most . . . human.”
Daniel, a recent widower, in the movie Love Actually delivers a touching eulogy of his wife Joanne’s, by highlighting her sense of humor and zest for life, which includes The Bay City Rollers.
“Jo and I had uh, a lot of time to prepare for this moment. Some of her, uh, requests – for instance, that I should bring Claudia Schiffer as my date to the funeral – I was confident she expected me to ignore.”
—Four Weddings and a Funeral
Matthew in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral quotes from W.H. Auden’s sad, but wonderful poem in saying goodbye to Gareth: “As for me, you may ask how I will remember him, what I thought of him. Unfortunately, there I run out of words. Perhaps you will forgive me if I turn from my own feelings to the words of another splendid bugger: W.H. Auden.
This is actually what I want to say: ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone. Silence the pianos and with muffled drum, bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. Let the aeroplanes circle, moaning overhead, scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’. Put crepe bows ’round the white necks of the public doves, Let traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest; My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song. I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now; put out every one, Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood, For nothing now can ever come to any good.'”
—The Bucket List
Jack Nicholson’s character Edward Cole says he doesn’t know what most people say at funerals, because he tries to avoid them, but . “The simplest thing is I loved him and I miss him. Carter and I saw the world together. Which is amazing when you think that only three months ago we were strangers. I hope it doesn’t sound selfish of me, but the last months of his life were the best months of mine. He saved my life, and he knew it before I did.”
Edward finishes up by saying: “I’m deeply proud that this man found it worth his while to know me. In the end, I think it’s safe to say we brought joy to one another. And one day when I go to some final resting place and if I happen to wake up next to a certain wall with a gate, I hope that Carter is there to vouch for me and show me the ropes on the other side.”
Yes, these are just movies, real life is so much harder. In any event, I guess this is my way of saying funerals can be challenging and that I’m sending my thoughts and prayers to the Bush family.