Recent participation in local funerals caused Sarah Torbeck to reflect, with startling candor, on her own future eulogy.
Over the past two years, it has been my solemn task to attend several funerals. The gestures of sympathy and comfort, while appreciated, ultimately managed to arouse my acerbic wit—so much so, that I have created a list of clichés and platitudes that should be anathema to those who plan, or execute, (no pun intended) my imminent funeral.
“She was a good person.”
No, I was not a good person. First, the word, “good” is almost meaningless, since it implies a universe of descriptors that allow for almost any idea, pattern, behavior or characteristic that means more to the mourner than it does to the deceased. I was good at what? Driving? Not really. I always set the cruise control at least five MPH over the speed limit, so that I could drive under the radar, literally, while still technically breaking the law.
Was I good friend? Yes, and no. Through the years I have learned from my mistakes, but it is very difficult to have the perfect response for everyone, in every given situation.
“She would have given you the shirt off her back.”
Definitely not. I don’t mind helping people with individual issues, but I take serious umbrage with the aforementioned phrase, especially in reference to an old lady like me. Just, ew. The images those words might evoke in the mind of an innocent funeral attendee could cause serious psychological injury.
“Now we have an angel in heaven who is watching over us.”
Actually, no. I’m not an angel; nor will I ever be an angel. I’m sorry to break it to George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life, but souls do not become angels after they die. At the moment of our creation, we were given a body and soul by the Eternal Father. When we die, we leave our earthly form behind, while our soul rises toward heaven to face our individual judgment before God. Angelic transformation may be a romantic (if not sentimental) concept, but it has no basis in fact. God created the angels separately from us.
This news isn’t all bad. Yes, angels are superior to us in many ways, but we possess a few gifts that they do not: we have the gift of redemption, i.e., we can exercise the gift of free will to our betterment or our detriment. Angels have free will as well, but they are given just one opportunity to choose heaven or hell. There is no redemption for them. Redemption is for us alone. It is also noteworthy to mention that a soul, once allowed into Purgatory or Heaven, has the ability to pray and intercede for us here on earth, since God in his mercy, communicates our prayers to them, thus allowing them to intercede for us.
“She looks really good.”
I look good for what? Someone who’s dead? I suppose it might be true if my mortician used to moonlight as a beauty consultant at a large department store, but trust me, it’s all hair and make-up. Underneath, I’m actually dust, as the scripture promises.
“I had no idea she was ill.”
The bald truth is, that at some point I must have been ill, or I wouldn’t be here in this funeral parlor and neither would you.
“I’m sure she’s up there in heaven enjoying (insert favorite hobby here)."
Heaven is not like earth. It is outside our human understanding.
“But as it is written: ‘What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.’” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
So I’m really sure I won’t be in heaven making soap. (Besides, I have it on good authority that heaven is already immaculate.)
“She was a saint.”
Actually, I would probably like it if people said that about me, but that fact alone is a pretty good indicator that my cause for canonization will not stand up before the Vatican tribunal. Love of human praise over the opinion of God will definitely slow-walk me to the pearly gates. So here’s a suggestion: substitute that nice platitude with, “May God have mercy on her soul; she’s going to need it.” Amen!
“She looks like she’s just sleeping.”
I think it is safe to say, that I am not sleeping. I no longer have a mortal body; therefore I no longer possess the corporal needs for sleep, food, cabernet sauvignon, or Dick Van Dyke reruns. I do, however, possess an immortal soul, which has returned to its Divine Master. If you find yourself in the unhappy position of attending my funeral Mass, please offer prayers for this tiny soul. I, like you, want to be united with my Creator … which has been promised to those who love Him.
And I do—love Him.
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8 platitudes to avoid at Catholic funerals #catholicmom
Copyright 2022 Sarah Torbeck
About the Author
Sarah Torbeck is a mother, a grandmother, and a widow. She spent her early-adult years immersed in the esoteric religions. Through the Rosary and a miraculous intervention by the Blessed Virgin Mary, she was led into the Catholic Church. She was home! Sarah was a writing teacher, and currently writes about her faith and love for God—for He is merciful, even to His tiniest sparrow.