The son of Ruby* took his place behind the lectern, his eyes magnified by his oversized spectacles. I was drawn to his energy, watching him from the back of the church by a bookshelf wobbly with bibles. I loved his kind nature from the moment he introduced himself prior to the the service.
“I’m Ray,” he said gently when I offered him a service booklet. I knew Ray was the “applicant” by reading the funeral conductor’s paperwork. The applicant is the person who made the funeral arrangements and the person we give most of our attention to on the day.
“Ray,” I shook his hand and looked into his teary blue eyes blinking behind his glasses. “Condolences. I see you will be delivering the eulogy.” I referred to his name printed in the order of service next to a photo of his mum taken decades before this day. I was drawn to her energy too, just by the image. I was transfixed on her pretty face and I couldn’t wait to hear her story presented by this gentle man.
And what a eulogy it was.
I hear a eulogy or two every single day of my life. I’ve heard the life journeys of doctors, housewives, war soldiers, pilots, scientists, authors. And no matter their social and professional status, commonly the eulogy follows the same chronological structure.
(Name) was born in 1925 in (city/town) They were the second child of (how many siblings) They lived in (the town) until they met (love of their life) and so forth. Each and every story surely is fascinating and I wish I could flick out a notepad and finally use all those shorthand lessons I endured when I dabbled in journalism. But I do wish the eulogy was more about the deceased’s passions- their favourite food! Best holiday experience! Funniest drunken moments! Not what year they got hitched.
Today’s eulogy wandered from the usual path with Ray begining his mother’s story a little differently.
“Two weeks ago I was sitting with mum having a coffee. She seemed so full of life, her usual mischievous self. A few days later we received the news that she was not well and a week after that, here we are. Just like that- she’s gone. So quickly.”
I looked down at my shiny shoes.
Yes my friend. Just like that.
“Mum complained of neck pain and headaches the past few weeks,” Ray continued. “And after some tests, the doctor said she had a major brain bleed and she would not survive. All they could do was keep her comfortable. I spent every hour with her until she passed. Mum never regained consciousness but while in her coma, I had a lot of time in her small room to reflect on who she was to me. Who she was to everyone. I found a photo album full of photos of a life I knew nothing about. It was mum in her younger years, so beautiful. And all I could do was kiss her forehead and say ‘oh mum.’ I had only ever known her as this grey frail lady. I forgot she was young once too, and she lived a full and incredible life.”
I suddenly admired this kind man even more. He had understood the lesson of death, and it changed his life. He was one of the rare few who listened.
He spoke as if Ruby was in the room and thanked her for the lessons she taught him. Even in her death. “If mum wasn’t in a week long coma, would I have spent seven days by her side in reflection?”
He called it a coincidence.
I believe there is no such thing and I call today’s, the best eulogy ever.