Funerals are funny.
I don’t mean laugh-out-loud funny. I mean peculiar – but I detest that word. It’s been hijacked by people trying to be clever.
Funerals are the only place where you find yourself in a room for an extended period of time, and you’re forced to contemplate your mortality, and you’re reminded that one day everyone you love is going to die.
We buried one of the sweetest and most genuine people I had ever known the other day, and my cousin leans over and says: “Use to, this room would’ve been full with our family.” The older you get, the smaller the crowd is at the funeral home.
A funeral is different than covering a shooting or wreck or some other catastrophe that you run across if you do this job long enough because you have the narrative of what happened.
So, instead of answering questions like what if my wife dies before I do? You can go interview the ex-girlfriend of the guy that just stuck a shotgun to his chest behind the Waffle House she worked at.
Instead of answering questions like what is there going to be left to say when I die and how truthful do I really want it to be? You can go snap a photo of the firemen using the jaws of life to free a body from a mangled ‘70s-model Buick.
The lady in the Buick lived. The guy in the work truck she hit didn’t, but you don’t take that picture.
Often, my response time from the paper I worked at was quicker than the first responders. There’s not a more helpless feeling than being first on a scene, but that’s another conversation.
When I became editor of that paper, I purposely slowed those response times down. I kept the scanner in my office, and when a call came through, I’d drag my feet a little when it was time to send a reporter to cover it.
Every journalist I know who covers tragic events hits a limit. But, without a job to do, you’re left with your own thoughts and a couple of answers.
The answer to the first question is I hope I go first. It’s a selfish answer, but I’d hate to have to live without my wife.
Knowing her, it won’t happen that way, though. She didn’t let me “retire” after I left my last paper, and I doubt she’s going to let me permanently retire before she does.
The answer to the second question has a couple of parts.
First, in the obit, for the first sentence put, I died. There’s no need to be any more poetic than that. Not to mention, anything more would be sacrilege to my profession.
Secondly, in the eulogy, be honest. I’ve done some good things. I’ve done some bad things. You don’t have to put the bad parts in, but don’t overcompensate by embellishing the good parts.
And, for whoever writes it, if you draw a blank, I’m fine with “Well, I guess he was alright. Didn’t really do much, though.”
Finally, get a police escort and make sure they take the long way to the cemetery. I think everyone should be able to stop traffic, inconvenience others, and be noticed at least once in their life.
But, again, let me emphasize the long way because, for me, it’s about being a pain in the neck one last time.