Sunday, July 12, 2009

Is there something wrong with a child speaking at a funeral?

I have never been to a funeral. Scratch that. I went to my Grandma’s funeral but I don’t remember being at the funeral. I remember the car ride back from the funeral. It was painful and I didn’t know how to deal with all the emotions I was feeling. I don’t know why I can’t remember the actual service. I was 14. I should be able to remember it, shouldn’t I? Did I block it out? Did I not pay attention? I don’t know.

Like all things Michael Jackson, there has been a giant media maelstrom over the fact that his daughter was allowed to speak at his funeral. Granted, this was not your typical funeral. There were 17,000+ people. There was media. There was celebrity. But that girl wanted to tell the world that she loved her dad. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

What do you think?


  1. On the one hand, I admire the practice of paying tribute to the deceased in public. And yet: There is an element of voyeurism attached to it that deeply troubles me. I've been to a lot of funerals and, during such eulogies, I always get the uncomfortable feeling that the crowd is judging the speaker--as though they're waiting (even hoping) for the person to burst into tears or make some public display of emotion, because said emotion "proves" to the crowd how much the deceased meant to the person. I think it's subconscious, that no one really intends to be that critical or actively judgemental. Yet I still hate it.

    I have no problem with euologies in general, but they're simply not for me. I'm also a private person. So when my grandmother died, I said my good-byes to her in the only way I could, in a long, handwritten letter that I sealed in an envelope and placed in the coffin before they closed the lid. I wouldn't let anyone read it, least of all my mother; it was between me and my grandmother. On the way to the graveyard, someone in the limo commented to my mother how much my grandmother had loved me. And when I didn't say anything or burst into tears, one relative gave me the strangest look, as if to say: "What's wrong with you? Are you really that heartless?" Anyone who knows me well enough knows otherwise, but that's not for me to show or tell, and I resent the idea that I have to cry or make speeches in public to prove it. Therefore, I'll never give a eulogy or make a speech. But when people see me placing an envelope into the coffin, they should know that the words contained therein are my tribute, my way of saying, "I love you."

  2. Claire, I think that's beautiful and a fitting tribute from someone who is a writer.
    I've been thinking a lot about death lately (Pamela laughs out loud) and I've wondered if I'd be able to get up at a funeral and speak. One, I hate to speak in public. Two, I am prone to becoming super emotional. I can keep it suppressed for awhile, but when it starts, I can't stop it. I would be the one to get up there and bawl like a baby.

  3. I think it's perfectly acceptable, and if it helps the family heal, so much the better.


Comments are welcome and appreciated!