“You’ve been Mark’s friend for a long time. Will you get up and deliver his eulogy?” asked Susan, Mark’s wife. Her sad and desperate eyes left no room for anything but a yes response. “Of course,” I said with conviction, knowing full well that I’d have to dig real deep to find something to say on Mark’s behalf. I mean, Mark was a great guy and all, but the bulk of my conversations with him over the years were more on the superficial side. You know what I mean? We were guys. We’d open with weather, move to sports, and end on women. Guy stuff. He particularly liked listening to my dating stories and I particularly didn’t like listening to his complaining about his life and his struggling marriage to Susan.
So was it true that I had been Mark’s friend for years? Yes. However, we really didn’t do things together, per se. Instead, we’d meet up at events…like parties and Adventure Club activities, which we were both members.
I also knew he was dying from cancer and made a point to visit him fairly frequently during his losing bout with the illness…the same illness that has taken many a friends from me. What’s interesting (in hindsight of course), is that when we did get together near the end of his life, we would always be doing something like going on walks or messing around with his massive train system in his basement. Although that seemed normal at the time, I now realize that we used those activities to divert our focus away from discussing his illness and the fact that he was dying. Although a part of me really wanted to talk to him about what he was going through…another part of me, the superficial side, didn’t know how to have a meaningful, honest, and vulnerable conversation with him. After all, we never did before.
Nevertheless, I raked my memory over and over again looking for any kind of material, a funny story, an embarrassing moment, or even a profound thought that I could share about Mark for his eulogy. Nothing. I asked others who knew him and they came up blank as well.
How can I know Mark for so many years and not know him at the same time! I cried out.
The back-up plan
With not even a story to share I decided to go with Plan B and recited one of my favorite readings called Bits and Pieces for Mark’s eulogy. It’s a powerful piece about all the different people who come into our lives and the impact that they leave on us.
The funeral ended. We ate cake. People thanked me for the nice reading.
Really! I couldn’t tell who I was more disappointed in…me for my lame eulogy or Mark for not being more interesting. Why didn’t he give me more material to work with, I thought to myself.
And then it hit me.
This wasn’t about Mark at all. This was about me. That’s right, me. I didn’t take our friendship to the next level. I could have asked him how he’s feeling. I could have asked him to describe what it was like to be told you only have three months to live. I could have asked him if he had any regrets. But I didn’t do any of that. I missed out on an incredible opportunity.
I don’t know about you but I hope when my time comes my friends, family, and colleagues have plenty to say about me, our relationship, and the impact I had on their lives. But fair warning! Don’t bring anything to read. No poems. No versus. I want to hear how I’ve touched you. I want to hear how I lived, laughed, and loved. And I want to hear why this world is a better place because I was here. Is that asking too much?