27
May
10

Eulogies and Common Sense

Back at her childhood home, Sarah sat with her parents and Phillip in the dark panelled living room. David relaxed in his usual reclining armchair, legs up on the retractable rest. Judy curled up under a blanket on one end of the couch with a family pet, while Sarah and Phillip fit in randomly, filling the remaining spots left open by her parents routine. All were quietly staring at the flashing television screen trying to forget the day’s events, when Judy finally asked in her patently chipper tone, “Sarah, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, but your grandmother would like it if you gave your grandfather’s eulogy.”

Oh god was all Sarah could muster, even to herself. Making a face that could best be described as what-the-fuck, she looked at her mother and shook her head, “what?” Her tone was far less chipper than her mother’s and bordered on curt, “you have got to be kidding me.”

Judy just laughed and said, “I am not.” It was as incredible to her as it was to her daughter. Sarah hadn’t spoken to either of her grandparents for nearly a year, and neither Daisy, Sarah’s grandmother, nor Sarah could bring themselves to talk to one another now.

“Did she actually ask you to ask me?” Sarah continued in irritable disbelief.

“No, not directly. You know how she is.” Judy remained amused by it all. “She just drops hints, makes comments that suggest this is what she would like. She could never bring herself to ask me such a thing. It’s just expected.”

David stared at the television in complete oblivion to the conversation. He had a unique skill for tuning out the world, especially when that world was discussing his family.

Persistent, Sarah pressed, “like what? What did she say?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Judy herself was growing a little more irritated at having to talk about her in-laws so long and receive her daughter’s attitude in acting as their messenger, “She just keeps talking about how good you were at giving my dad’s eulogy and how she wished there was someone who could do the same for Daniel.”

Of course, thought Sarah. She remembered talking to her grandmother in the basement of the church the day of the funeral, there in the kitchen that always looked the same and was forever filled with the older townswomen whenever something major occurred in the town like a wedding or religious holiday. At the time, Sarah, after having lived so long in the city, had thought it at once strange and comforting that here in this small town at her maternal grandfather’s funeral should be her paternal grandparents. It offered Sarah a reprieve from her mother’s grieving family left behind in the sanctuary, who after listening to her heartfelt eulogy, in which all of them were mentioned in relation to the life of their grandfather, had been brought to tears by it. In the kitchen, Sarah gave Daisy the eulogy to read and noting that there were some stories from her grandfather’s youth that had they been about her paternal relations would have been considered by them scandalous to share, teased her grandmother that she should never let Sarah deliver her eulogy – think of the casual stories she might betray! Daisy agreed in her typically proud air, while Sarah grew uneasy at the prospect of having to give either of her paternal grandparent’s eulogies, what would she say?

It was a very different situation with Judy’s father. After visiting her maternal grandfather in the hospital just before his death, Sarah had been suddenly struck by the idea that it would be impossible for anyone outside the immediate family to really deliver a eulogy worthy of that man. He had been so kind and strong and such an integral part of her entire family. The thought of anyone, even one of his nephews, trying to capture what he meant to all of them just seemed preposterous. And so, by the time Sarah had returned to the city and her work there, she had made up her mind. At first her mother was uncertain, but Sarah was really insistent. Everyone had always told her what a good public speaker she was, and what better application of such a skill than this, thought Sarah. There was something fulfilling, then, when after having read it to her brother and cousins that day in the sanctuary they were both smiling and crying: she had captured his life and enabled them to celebrate in it.

Giving a eulogy for her dad’s father. That was something else altogether.

“I don’t know, mom,” Sarah began uncertainly, “I just don’t know that I could do it. It isn’t the same. I’d probably be inclined to discuss the living a little more, share with the attendees how the man lying in that coffin had treated his son, for example. I don’t think it would be right.”

“I told you didn’t have to,” Judy shook her head and raised her hand as if to brush the whole matter off.

Yet Sarah’s guilt gnawed away at her, the same way it had about attending the funeral in the first place. The sense of familial duty to relations that clearly couldn’t care less about Sarah was bewildering for the young woman. Why couldn’t she just say, no? Then it occurred to her, “what about Dick? Why doesn’t he do it? Surely he isn’t overcome with emotions, as a normal child would be at the death of a parent. Moreover, being the big shot that he is, wouldn’t it appeal to his vanity to deliver a speech to the hometown?”

Judy laughed and seemed about to agree when the phone cut the conversation short. Picking up the portable handset from the coffee table between herself and David, Judy answered. “Hello?” and in a flattened tone,  “Yes, she’s here.” Judy turned to Sarah at the other end of the couch, handing her daughter the phone said, “It’s Dick.”


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