Eulogize or Criticize: The Choice Is Yours

We know not exactly how life is formed, we know not what makes a man really grow. We’ve just come to terms with science’s theories, assumptions, and conclusion. We just believe that the union of man and woman is what brings forth life. And after that life is brought forth, what it turns out to be is left to be decided by destiny, fate or choice.

However, when it’s time to go we have little or no say in the matter, about when, how and why? It most times just happens and leaves a vacuum in the lives of those around us, depending on the kind of impact the person had in their lives. Some have gone and left positive unforgettable memories to cherish, while the departure of others was a thing of good riddance.

The impact is what I plan to dwell on for the rest of this scribbling. IMPACT! A strong or significant influence or an effect on something. As you can see, nothing in its definition puts impact as being good or bad. It, therefore connotes that while living on the face of the earth we have a choice to choose between leaving a positive or negative impact.

It’s a choice, it’s our will and we decide on it through the influence of various life’s circumstances that’s moulded us into what we are today. The question then goes thus; when you die, what will be the whispers in the air? Will, there be a memorable eulogy, extolling your goodness or will it be a cocktail of witty criticism mixed joy of your departure? Ponder on this for a while as I am also pondering.

If you’ve never for once thought about death even as you live, then I really don’t know what you do think about it. You need not be reminded of your mortality and how everything in life has an end someday. It’s the inevitable, inescapable, unavoidable fateful event bound to happen to all living being. It’s not predictable, though some are gifted to foresee but they never know exactly when till it happens.

Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean that suddenly your misdeeds are forgotten or never happened. Your death may just be felt for a while, there’s one less soul, one less person out there living and loving but the rhetoric still remains. Was he a good man or not? Think through this thought process, “depending on the circumstances surrounding one’s death it could be perceived as a sad event while also acknowledging that the person’s death was also a good thing for other people”. I’m sure there are some names popping up in your head that are first-class members of this category?

Another angle to it is if you don’t want people to talk bitterly and bad about you when you shuffle off this mortal coil, don’t be despicable in life. The way the world relates to death is ever-dynamic at times frenzy. You get to see complete strangers who had not a single contact with the supposed dead have so much to say over the negatives of such a person. And most times, there’s an exaggeration in the praises rendered for their good works.

George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees owner, whom a Journalist Muhammad Cohen claimed was being wrongly eulogized after his death. The below excerpt was Cohen’s in the Guardian publication of July 15th, 2010.

George Steinbrenner was a loser. While insisting that nothing less than winning was acceptable, Steinbrenner owned the New York Yankees during the team’s longest World Series drought since its first appearance in 1921, a dry spell directly attributable to Steinbrenner’s insistent mismanagement.

Steinbrenner, who died on Tuesday at age 80, was a bully and a brat, devoid of humility, class, and civility, born on third base, deluded that he’d hit a triple, and convinced he had to tell the whole world how he’d done it. Famed for his bombast and for making himself bigger than his players and team, tolerated only because he had money and power, this Yankee Doodle Dandy born on the Fourth of July paved the way for America to become a loser by his example. Just about every bit of praise eulogizing Steinbrenner is 180 degrees wrong… He was a terrific businessman, a daring capitalist who insisted he needed public handouts for his billion-dollar family company…

Steinbrenner was a laughable figure in the comedy series Seinfeld with nothing funny about him. He was a generous man whose many donations we never heard about… he was breathtakingly cruel and petty. He was a great sportsman, suspended twice from baseball for breaking the rules and convicted for breaking the law. He was a great Yankee who infuriated and alienated the team’s players and fans and insulted the Yankees’ traditions and greatest legends. Believe me, if there is a heaven, George Steinbrenner won’t be there…

In contrast to the above, is this heart-wrenching eulogy excerpt presented by Mona Simpson, Steve Jobs’ sister who died at 56 years.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.
That’s incredibly simple but true.
He was the opposite of absent-minded.
He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church…
His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.
Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning.
He treasured happiness.
Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris…
Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.
Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.
We all – in the end – die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.
I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.
…This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.
He told me when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place…
Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.
Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.
Steve’s final words were:

Oh! Wow! It is really to be eulogized rather than being criticized. It all goes to show that it’s not about how long-lived but how well-lived?

How bad should one’s death be perceived or how good was the demise for the better good? Ancient Greek philosopher Lucretius believed that “death is not bad if there is afterlife”. And from the two excerpts shared earlier, it’s a point reiterated which goes to show that peradventure there’s life after death that requires being morally good as the qualification for admittance, then we all ought to yearn and lean towards achieving that goal.

There has been overemphasis from various religious sects on turning to a righteous life before death and Christianity portrays it more on that one decision being the key to eternal life. A righteous life is a life of freedom from sin or guilt, moral and virtuous or being justified morally. “He who pursues righteousness and kindness finds life, prosperity, and honour. And we should also remember that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov. 21:21 & 14:34)”. There basically is no middle ground as there are only two causes and each has its own effect. It is appointed for every man to die once and after it comes judgment.

I know not how to close this piece, as I have my own thinking and intentional actions to take towards realigning my life in righteousness. However, the choice is still yours to make, within your control while the breath of life still exists in you.


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