THE emotions are a bit raw this week. Limerick’s hurling heartbreak is palpable - even from this side of the county bounds, where some of us, still harbouring our own divine right complex, had been feeling somewhat usurped in recent weeks. The leaves are beginning to fall from the trees in sympathy and the evenings are closing in. Another vicious budget looms on the horizon and the last of the summer wine is all quaffed. To cap it all, I’ve just been told that the chances of getting a eulogy when I’m being laid to rest have diminished dramatically in the last few days.
Maybe it’s just as well, the way I’m feeling this week, steeped as I am in gloom. If I’m to be remembered at all, I want to be remembered as a bundle of fun when I take my leave of the world.
Actually, I was never really in favour of funeral eulogies because some of the most wonderful people I’ve known had nobody to pay tribute to them when they died, while some of the greatest scoundrels were lauded to the heavens. Also I come from a time when one’s worth and importance was measured on passing, not by a eulogy, but by a High Mass – and you had to pay for that.
On the other hand, people go to funerals to pay their respects to the deceased and to comfort the bereaved, and maybe the ceremony should reflect the character and personality of the deceased - within reason of course.
I’m also inclined to agree with Shakespeare when he said: “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.” And where better to redress that sorry situation than in a eulogy?
For my own part, I always thought I was too modest for a eulogy. I thought I’d be absolutely mortified at the thoughts of someone singing my praises in public at my obsequies. But the minute I learned that the Bishop of Meath had banned all personal panegyrics from funeral Masses, I had this sudden perverse urge for an oration. “I’ve come to bury Caesar, not to praise him . . .”
Forget it, Mark Antony!
But, for now at least, the prospect of being eulogised at the funeral Mass depends on being in the right place at the right time when you pass on, and the diocese of Meath is not the right place, apparently. They won’t even make an exception for Michael O’Leary, who resides in the diocese, and who like everyone else there may now have to go down to the ‘vile earth from which he sprung, unwept, unhonoured and unsung’, unless somebody challenges the Bishop on the grounds of discrimination.
It can only be a matter of time, however, before eulogy free Requiem Masses become the norm, if only for the sake of consistency. We’ve only ourselves to blame, of course, having lost the run of ourselves in death, as well as in life. Once the preserve of the rich and famous, we’ve all got in on the act and the oration has become a right of passage for everyone with someone to speak for them.
But what if you have no-one to eulogise you? All is not lost. Eulogies, tailored to your needs, are available on the internet at a dime a dozen – which kind of makes the whole exercise completely meaningless. One site offers advice on “how to write a eulogy”. Eulogy poems are particularly ubiquitous. Another site has sample eulogies for mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, even grandparents, but, mind you, I couldn’t find a single one that catered for a bundle of fun. No wonder the Bishop of Meath decided it was time to curb our growing laudatory propensities.
As far as I can recall, eulogies were banned in the diocese of Killaloe a few years ago, but nobody paid a blind bit of notice to the prohibition and continued extolling the virtues, and sometimes even the vices, of the departed at the Mass. Sometimes, however, words aren’t even necessary for an effective eulogy. I remember once attending a Requiem Mass for a very popular and colourful parish priest in the diocese. The bishop himself presided and told how he had attended the priest at his death bed, a couple of days earlier.
Just before he passed away, the elderly priest opened his eyes, looked up at the Bishop and said: “No eulogy now when I’m gone, because you’d have to tell too many lies.”