My uncle had been such an adorable little man, and yet it didn’t take me long to realise my eulogy was a complete failure. I got it there and then that when a eulogy fails, it has this crashing sound that has no decency to it. No civility. This was a no-saving-graces disaster, and I knew my final words would quiver like frightened rabbits. Ah fuck it, I thought. I’ll say them anyway, they just have to come out, those words: “Rest in peace”.
The silence that then ensued was devastating. I of course knew that silence could be different. Deferential, humble silence was one thing, but then speechless, annoyed confusion was another. The mournful congregation, I felt, was definitely going for the latter. Which was heartbreaking: my uncle had been such an adorable little man. Yet the sweaty, rumpled sheet of paper in my hands was looking more and more like a wet handkerchief in the fiddling fingers of a destitute widow. And there really was no end to that ridiculous silence. How did it come to this? What went wrong?
My mother approached me the day before, right after the final stroke, and told me about this whole eulogy business. Surprised but flattered, I said yes. Will the casket be open? I asked, and was greatly relieved when she told me that no, it would actually be closed. Be honest, she said. Honesty never fails. She also wanted to impress upon me the solemnity of the situation, the number of uncle’s business partners and distant cousins that would be attending, but I assured her I would be fine. Why me one might wonder? Well, it was generally assumed that my uncle and I had been the world’s biggest friends, so it really made some sort of sense. It took me five hours and a good half of my night’s sleep, but the eulogy was finally finished sometime before dawn. I knew it was perfect, I was satisfied with every single line, word, and pause there. When I say five hours, I don’t want to make anyone feel that writing the eulogy was in any way difficult. It was emotional, yes, and my pained emotions were pouring out of me like crazy, together with all those colourful memories from the past. I wanted to be brutally honest, and that was easy. What was difficult and what took me five hours was cutting it all down to a reasonable three-page eulogy. My heart was trembling in happy anticipation.
And yet all the thirty or forty men, women, and even little children in black were visibly (if unspokenly) disgusted. After all I’d said nobody felt any power to utter a sound. It was a failure – even the ‘rest in peace’ bit could salvage nothing. I knew my eulogy made my uncle a heartless monster, but then that’s what he had been all this time. I didn’t believe for a second his true nature could have escaped anyone. Come on, you all know it’s true! I wanted to shout. He is dead! No need to fear him now! I looked up at my family: they clearly were fuming with baffled anger, but remained motionless so far. I tried to enjoy those last quiet moments, that silent calmness of a hurt but undying animal, but the awful silence felt like a stone on my neck. It was hard to bear. I was 12, I was quivering all over, and I wanted to cry. Weep – like a child.