My Eulogy Choice

Keeper of secrets
whether pride or protection
death will whisper so

Haiku-Heights prompt - PRIDE
prompt – PRIDE
I had a client who committed suicide.  A lovely, gentle woman.  I hadn’t seen her in many months when her husband called to tell me.  I was shocked, shocked beyond belief.

In Indonesia, funerals are a colorful celebration of life. The above photo was taken during a funeral procession on the beach in the fishing village of Jimbaran, in Bali, Indonesia. Often, Balinese funerals are elaborate, expensive affairs, much like an American wedding. They include a procession, much like a festival, filled with bright colors and floats, where the community is celebrating the life of the deceased.
In Indonesia, funerals are a colorful celebration of life.

I sat in the chapel at her funeral watching and listening to her family describe a wife and mother they thought they knew. 

In a single split second it hit me that I was the only person in that chapel who knew what she thought of her family:  What

A few hundred surfers gathered for a tribute paddle-out to celebrate the life of American professional surfer Andy Irons.
A few hundred surfers gathered for a tribute paddle-out to celebrate the life of American professional surfer Andy Irons.

pleased her;  What pained her;  Her fear, her anger, her confusion and despair; Secrets she shared with me.  

Secrets that were mine to keep forever.  It was not a good feeling.

In that split second I learned that none of us ever truly know each other.  We have snapshots of moments in time.  We have posed snapshots of each other which we view over and over through our own limited lens.
In that split second I realized that I can truly never understand, never know what any other person experiences.  My sympathy, my empathy, my understanding come through the filter of my own lens.
To know I DON’T KNOW has liberated me, to a small degree, from the filter of my own ego,  from the arrogance of believing I understand, the delusion of thinking I know.

More than 1,000 people gather in New South Wales, Australia to celebrate the life of Jai Morcom
More than 1,000 people gather in New South Wales, Australia to celebrate the life of Jai Morcom

After I die it truly doesn’t matter to me what those who survive me do.  But if any of you decide to have a ceremony . . . share my secrets . . . and I would like Archie to deliver my eulogy . . . please.

23 thoughts on “My Eulogy Choice

  1. I never watched TV, except for SNL, which was genius, with Gilda, John Belushi and and the entire cast.. Judy, thanks for posting this video. Both these actors are genius. I will go online to watch more episodes of Archie Bunker. I did know Jean Stapleton.

    Wow, on suicide. I have some different thoughts on that. So much suffering. I just pray
    for them. Everyone has their breaking point, and with some it’s death. Very complex, then to throw in the brain chemistry. It’s, but for the grace of God go I thing for me. Decades of reading The Tao and Buddhism, and Al-anon, has helped me understand suffering more, and feel more for other people. I can’t make a judgement on that one. Only thing I have is
    compassion and prayers. I’m thankful to have that.

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  2. Powerful and poignant Judy! Sorry to read about your client… It must be hard to hold onto secrets that are never shared… My heart goes out to all who are suffering…
    Eliz

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  3. Off topic (as usual), but the discussion of secrets reminded me of the post secret project: “PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail
    in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.”
    Frank Warren has been collecting these postsecret cards since circa 2004. The collection has travelled as an “art show,” and he has collected many into various books. http://www.postsecret.com/ takes you to the main page, and from there you can journey through the postsecret experience.
    And, in one of those strange co-incidences, Frank Warren, has started a wikia/website for International Suicide Prevention: “The International Suicide Prevention Wiki (ISP Wiki) is a worldwide directory of suicide prevention hotlines, online chat, text-lines, and resources. The ISP Wiki is open source to be used by any individual or organization. This directory was created for the PostSecret App and may be used freely in other apps to instantly connect people in need to crisis centers near them.”
    PS: My mother wanted no fuss or funeral — we buried her ashes next to my father. We invited the her “adopted” daughters, one of whom said a short eulogy. I didn’t think my mother would mind that.
    Me: I want my ashes scattered. I just can’t narrow down which nature spot I love best to have them go off on the breezes.
    And, my secret is have I sent a postcard to the postsecret project?

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  4. Suicide is so complicated. I found out about it early, and thought the person who committed it was so selfish, and I was so confused. As I’ve grown up, I’ve met others who have given up on the life they had been given, not knowing how to end the pain they felt…and knowing many who struggle to pull themselves out of the feelings that they simply cannot go on.
    Having Bipolar I, I have thought of it a few times, when I’ve been that down I cannot see a way out….yet when I’m not on the downward spiral I have a hard time believing I ever felt that way.
    As I said…complicated.

    Not knowing others…I often feel I don’t know myself. I’m pretty open…as you know….about how I feel about things, but my past, full of confusion and memory lapses….I know I have secrets I do not even know myself.

    When I die, yes people may share my secrets, frankly I think some do now, secrets about me that I do not know myself. But I would like for the people who I have told the truth to, been honest to….about family…..about feelings….I’d like that to be talked about too.

    Truly though, I do not need a send off. They are for the living not the dead. Do what one may, but please wear outrageous colors and sing loud! Remember how I loved, and lived, and not how I died.

    We may never know another…not really…..but I think that’s alright in many instances. We know the person they are to us…and that’s what they want.

    Great insight!

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    1. Wendy, Suicide is the hight of selfishness – no regard for how it will actually impact others. HOWEVER, when people reach that state their brains are incapable of processing anything with rationality. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It is very complicated and neurochemically modulated so I cannot pass judgement on those who reach that state of mind. I can however be angry, sad and hurt at the loss I experience (which perhaps is just another ego-state of selfishness . . .)

      Also, if you can’t remember “it” does that classify as a secret? Interesting point you’ve brought up.

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  5. I had a friend who did suicide. I hadn’t seen her for some years when her husband wrote to tell me. She was such a beauty, a lively personality but had a back problem in later years. I understand your shock… I felt this. We can never know what goes on in another’s mind.

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  6. Synchronicity enters….a topic I’ve avoided for days after a prompt on death….
    the chord of what I’ve read, is “that none of us ever truly know each other. We have snapshots of moments in time. We have posed snapshots of each other which we view over and over through our own limited lens.”
    Growing up it was quoted as an American Indian quote of never knowing someone ’til you’ve walked in their shoes… I don’t know the exact quote, but even then,
    can never fully know another person exactly….similar experiences but never the same.
    Thank you…I’m still thinking, but I thought I’d write while the words are here. Thank you.
    .
    Still thinking about people sharing your secrets after you are gone…
    that has been on my mind…after being told by family what I “think”…or what they think I think, and need. And how I gave up who I am by not being able to voice my “No!” “I don’t think that way….you do.”
    Peace,
    Siggi

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  7. Judith, What that funeral did to you, your post did to me. Really do we know others, do we understand them or am I understood by people around me. The thought is unsettling and liberating at the same time. We all think on certain patterns, some call them mental conditioning. What ever we perceive is modified through this conditioning. The end result may not be the true picture of the feelings of the other person.

    We claim to know so much but little do we know that we know so little!

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    1. Its Meenakshi,
      Thank you for pointing out conditioning. It’s known that we habituate to visual, tactile, auditory etc. cues. We habituate perhaps to being unconsciously conditioned too. You’ve added yet another layer to our perception of others and their perception of us.
      I don’t believe we ever have the true picture, even of our own feelings.

      LOVE your last observation! “Wish I had thought of it” which is my highest compliment!

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  8. You are the only blogger I know who could post such a poignant piece about what must have been a heart-wrenching experience and then go on (IN THE SAME POST) to add one of the most hilarious scenes in ‘oldies’ TV. You are amazing, Judy! May you be comforted knowing that she trusted you enough to rest her secrets with you.

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    1. Wabi! Thank you so much for such a wonderful compliment. I’m putting you at the top of my favorite people list!

      It is a sacred honor to listen to other’s honest thoughts that I try not to lose sight of.

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  9. Anyone that YOU trusted enough to tell your secrets to, you know in your heart that they will keep those secrets. I had never seen that Archie Bunker tape. Loved it. Is it okay if I share? I learned a very important lesson from you, very deep indeed. At MY funeral, I will make sure to ask my therapist, ahead of time, to come. If I should be so blessed, not for a very long time. Love, Peachy Keen, Jr.

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    1. Laurie PK, Jr,
      You can always borrow or steal anything you want from my blog. My biggest desire is to share and have others share information, smiles etc.

      This is the only funeral I’ve gone to. One of the ways I keep confidentiality is not to attend client’s events. Clients who invite me obviously want me to come but I never know who the other guests (possible clients) might be who would NOT want to have to explain how they know me to friends/family. It’s certainly a judgement call. So check out your therapist’s “policy”!

      P.S. Usually the therapist pre-deceases their clients . . . from burn-out!

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  10. Judy… to have a client commit suicide has got to be a terrible experience and my heart goes out to you. And while I have many thoughts on this subject, I want to focus on your request that we “share your secrets” after you die because you will no longer be here.

    As you know, we don’t keep “secrets” just to protect ourselves (regardless of the reasons which are many), we also keep “secrets” to avoid hurting people we care about. And should those “secrets” not remain “secrets” even after we die? And would it not be more hurtful to disclose a “secret” after death when the family member and/or friend would no longer have an opportunity to share their feelings and/or apologize for their behavior and/or give you comfort in some way? And what about the betrayal that would be felt to suddenly realize upon your death that you were not the person we thought you were.

    You are in the business of listening to people’s “secrets” because the clients are working through problems in their lives, asking themselves difficult questions, and revealing to themselves (and to you) their true feelings about themselves and about others. And yes it is sad to think that you may have been the only person who ever knew your client’s “secrets” … but that was your client’s choice… it does not have to be your choice or my choice.

    Therefore, I am recommending that if you want me to divulge your secrets at your ceremony (assuming I outlive you and you have a ceremony), please provide me with a complete list of “secrets” you are keeping and I will gladly speak up on your behalf after you depart from this life.

    Your friend who intends to reveal all of her secrets in the book she is currently writing which will most likely not be published until after her death… Warmly, Jan

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    1. Jan,
      ALL the points you made are completely right on target. Revealing secrets that would hurt or harm those living serve no purpose other than one’s own ego needs. I was speaking only for myself on the post.

      It is without question that every single person – including and especially you – who I’ve shared secrets with are people who would NEVER set out to harm others. I have had, and continue to have, the incredible fortune to be blessed with loving, honest, ethical, compassionate and wise people as friends. There is no double in my mind that people who I’ve shared my deepest feelings with would ever say anything to deliberately, knowingly harm anyone.

      Having said that – I give all my confidants permission (and encouragement) to throw a wild party in my honor and compare notes! It should be a hoot and I’ll really be sorry I had to miss it.

      with love, jJ

      P.S. I would gladly give you a list of my secrets but at my age I can’t remember what they are . . . and by the time I’m dead my friends probably won’t remember either.

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  11. Wow–powerful post; it is always good to remind ourselves that we are flawed narrators–we can’t see all the motives and machinations of those around us. Really enjoyed this 🙂

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  12. Caroll O’Connor’s character of Archie Bunker had a way of exposing the best qualities of some of the worst qualities we all share, knowlingly or not. Shalom indeed.

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