Six weeks ago my father passed away after a long decline. Over the past year I assumed responsibility for my elderly parents' legal, financial, medical, and insurance matters. As a result, stress and worry and frustration have plagued me and I've fought to find the emotional energy to write. Things that would've ordinarily fed my soul, like reading and writing, have tasted bland and provided little nourishment. Many days I've done little more than lose myself in Pinterest, re-pinning art that might inspire my writing. My blog was placed on the back-burner.
When my father died, I felt obliged -- as the eldest child -- to speak at his memorial service. And I was honored to have the opportunity. I received many compliments on what I had to share with people about Ed Lacy. However, on this occasion, as when I spoke at my grandmother's service several years ago, I was reminded there is an unspoken rule -- a societal norm, as it were -- that one only speaks of the good things about the life of the recently deceased. When a family loses a loved one, the last thing they want to hear is anything negative. After all, it is the goodness in people, and their triumphs, that we treasure and want to remember. Asked how you would like to be remembered, no one is likely to suggest their failings.
But by limiting a eulogy the most positive aspects of someone's life, aren't we sharing incomplete truths? Would it really be so bad to explain that the deceased struggled? That they were truly human, like the rest of us, and not perfect? We might mention the obstacles they surmounted (a troubled childhood, a terrible illness, a tragedy), but we aren't allowed to mention what they failed to conquer.
Sometimes we have a story to tell but we can't tell it. I was very much aware of this as I constructed the right story for Dad's eulogy. I wanted to honor my father, so I shared at his memorial service some of his legacy, from food to music to writing and his Christian faith. I could only hint at his social isolation and his spiritual trials. A more complete story of this complex man will have to wait for another occasion.