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Gene Royer

Gene Royer is a staunch conservative. He is also a Policy Governance ® consultant and writer. He is the author of School Board Leadership 2000 - The Things Staff Didn't Tell You At Orientation and his international practice is based in Houston

    What If I Have A Funeral And Nobody Comes?
    by Gene Royer

    October 14, 2003

    Liberalism is the ideology of symbolism over substance, while Conservatism resounds with reason and logic--often in combinations that perplex the staunchest of hearts.  With this in mind, I recently sat down and began to contemplate my eventual death and the funeral ceremony that invariably will follow.

    My contemplation was not comfortable because the first reality to hit me was that it was pure symbolism over substance.  For whatever reasons that families are willing to spend thousands--and sometimes tens of thousands--of dollars for the deceased's eternal send-off, the act itself is illogical in that the dearly departed has already made his giant leap several days prior.

    Hearing this argument, experienced funeral directors will solemnly counter: "Funerals are for the living, and not for the dead".  Of course, I agree--which further labels it as symbolism over substance.

    "There are only two kinds of people in the world," I've always said.  "Those who live and those who die.  The dead ones, we call the dearly departed. And the ones who live are survivors."

     As "survivors" we need to perform the human act of doing something nice for our "dearly departed".  That "something nice" often translates into an expensive coffin, lots of flowers, many mourners, slow walking, low singing, and someone to say complimentary things over the body as it is put into its final disposition.  We do all this with great pomp even though we know that the subject of our affection is not there to receive it and approve.

    Symbolism over substance is what it is, and I'll have none of it when I die.

    What a silly thing to say, as I will have no say-so in the matter beyond giving prior preferences.  Of course, I have created written instructions regarding my death and disposal, which I hope my surviving wife will adhere to.  But from the hereafter there is no 20/20 hindsight.  She will do as she feels.

    When my father-in-law died a few years ago, the family asked me to deliver the eulogy, for which I felt honored.  I told the many who surrounded the burial plot that if they came intending to say good-bye to the man, they could forget it.

    "You're too late," I said, as I placed my hand on the flag-draped coffin. "He's been gone three days.  And the only thing remaining of him is this shell he was confined to for seventy-five years and the memories of him each of us harbor."

    My words stunned those in attendance, but their sensibility stopped the sobbing in the first two rows.  His wife looked at me, smiled and nodded her head.  We buried the shell; and at family gatherings, we sit around the table and relate our memories of him.

    A few weeks after his funeral, my mother-in-law took me aside and gave me succinct direction regarding her passing:  She wants to be cremated as immediately as possible after death, and she wants her "survivors" to have a small but joyful gathering to celebrate her having gone to a better place.

    That's sensible.  It's reasonable.  It's conservatism.

    She decries long faces and sad songs, and she has instructed me--if I succeed her in death--to position myself as master of ceremonies and direct the festivities.  She was born Catholic, and her people came from Poland, and she wants me to tell Polish jokes.

    I told her I know a few about the Pope, and she said that would be all right.

    I told her to put it in writing.

    © 2003 Tocqevillian Magazine