I can’t imagine anything worse than having to deliver a eulogy, but recently, it happened to me. Now, I hate funerals, and will do nearly anything to get out of going to one. Unfortunately, this family was under the mistaken impression that I was a close friend of the deceased, and what do you say when a teary-eyed daughter drops in and practically begs you to say a few words? I am not strong enough of heart or honest enough in spirit to refuse such a request based on the fact that I detested the bastard with every fiber of my being. So, wimp that I am, I reluctantly agreed.
After she left, I set about, pen in hand and a clean ream of white bond at my elbow, to write something that accentuated the meager good points about this fellow. I wracked my brain. Hours passed. Ashtrays grew full. Wastebaskets overflowed with hundreds of false starts.
The funeral was the next afternoon and, at 2:00 AM, I still had nothing. Finally, I just gave up, decided to wing it, and went to bed.
The day of the funeral was, well, funereal. They sky was dark enough to make even an atheist believe in the Apocalypse. Inside the funeral parlor, the organ music rose and fell like a queasy stomach as I made my way to the lectern, still having no idea what to say.
I gazed out at a sea of puddly eyes, cleared my throat, and began.
“We are here today to bid farewell to Fred – a man who was a darned good driver. He never drank when he was behind the wheel, and the fact that he only had one arm had nothing to do with it.
“I think the most impressive thing about Fred was how great he looked in sunglasses and those stylish tropical print Bermuda shorts he used to wear. You have to be a special person to wear shorts like that with knee socks, wing tips, and an “I’m with Stupid” sweatshirt. Not everyone can pull off that look, but on Fred, it was perfection.
“You could always depend on Fred for a good word – and every now and then, a complete sentence. He went out of his way to help little children, and, to this day, I think the charges filed by their parents were trumped up.
“And that suspicious disappearance of pets in his neighborhood had absolutely nothing to do with his taxidermy hobby – I’m positive of that. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar! The white slavery ring was pure nonsense, too. Fred never discriminated on the basis of color. If you could do the job, you were OK with Fred.
“Fred was constantly getting blamed for things he had nothing to do with, and I am outraged that he had to deal with that all his life. The fact that Fred bought a new Rolls Royce the day after the bank was robbed was pure coincidence. If one is thrifty, one can certainly save enough for a car like that on a janitor’s salary. And I heard that he won that trip to Switzerland. The public is too quick to judge these things, and law enforcement too quick to make arrests.
“And let’s not forget all the community service that Fred has performed. True, it was part of the sentencing, but community service is community service, and should be recognized and applauded.
“But now, Fred has laid his burden down. His troubles are over, as are those of the entire town. Fred’s death has not been in vain. People can now remove the bars from their windows. Merchants can holster their handguns. Children can play outside again. And all because we are here today. The entire community owes Fred a great debt of gratitude.