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Eulogized Egoists

The thing about eulogies is, despite your best efforts you can never be sure how they will handle your own. As much as we all have egos, we’ve imagined our funerals. It’s really the last grand foray into self indulgence. But that’s all it is, and at the end of the final day we have no idea or control over what will happen. Will we get one? Will anybody actually say anything? And if they do, will it come close to what we’d have wanted? When I’ve overheard or been in the presence of others talking about me, it generally falls into two categories: pointedly cruel and inaccurate, or overblown, grandiose, and exaggerated. In truth, these are the only two that register and I likely ignore the vast majority in between (“Did Rick eat the last piece of cake?”) But it applies to this eulogy thing. As much as “he ate the last piece of cake” would suffice, people tend to go overboard when speaking of the deceased at a funeral. The majority lean into the positive, but there are certainly examples of folks shuffling up to the podium, nodding in the stiff’s direction, and taking a final swipe.

All this thinking about how we’ll be remembered is going on in our own heads. It’s only in the ego of others, and how they wish to be perceived, that it will come to fruition. I have a friend whose ego lies squarely on the relative merits of his sense of humor. He’s spoken about making a video to be played at his funeral, an irreverent, brave, and above all hilarious final send off to be lovingly crafted by him. What he likely doesn’t get is that it’s just another vain example of ego indulgence. Even if he does this and his wishes are honored, people will react as people do. Some will indeed be thinking “my god, his wit transcends even this” while for others it will be “thank Christ this is coming to an end.” Implied ironic hilarity aside, there’s no getting around it. The only freedom comes in doing what almost none of us can do until the end: letting go.

There are exceptions. Unconditional love, ephemeral and elusive as it may be, transcends the ego. But it’s tricky and a large section of those believing they possess it are still trying to fill some self need. Like my writing this, it’s just another reach, another flailing stab at affirming that I matter. I had another friend, a short, combative individual who, interestingly, had a keen appreciation for my own brand of humor. His ego was so acute that he once asserted “the difference between you and me is that I have no ego.” I thought about it for a second and replied that, if this were true, he’d feel no need to say it. This seemed to stump him and, in deference to his ego, he replied “OK .. yeah.” An egoic Chinese finger-trap if ever there was one. All of which is to say it’s time to lay this post to rest. Please reserve all comments for after I’m gone.

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