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IN THE CANDID CORNER: Tragic missing thread


Matthew Farley

IN THE CANDID CORNER: Tragic missing thread

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“Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” – Matthew 25:21
Recently I read the tributes paid to the late Sir Richard Haynes by Dr Oscar Jordan and Gline Clarke, MP. Having followed the life and contribution of Sir Richard, I could readily endorse the sentiments expressed by both eulogists. 
Eulogy experts advocate that a good eulogy should focus on certain elements. It should span the complete life of the deceased and as such should focus on family life, friends, their involvement in community, the professional contribution and their unique qualities. In the final analysis, the experts insist that eulogies should be uplifting and honest. I have attended many funerals over the years and have sat through many a eulogy. The ones that have touched me most deeply and have brought most joy to my heart have been those which speak to the relationship of the deceased with his or her Maker.
When my mother died just five days after being taken to the hospital on December 9, 2008, I was given the distinct pleasure of eulogizing her. After speaking to her siblings and mine, it was a joy to be able to speak to the nature of her relationship with her God and to affirm categorically that my mother knew God. Her life reflected a personal relationship with God. The eulogies that have been most painful and tragic are those in which the eulogist omits to mention or fails to speak to or cannot declare that the deceased had a personal relationship with the God.
The great J.F. Kennedy’s eulogist, Senator Jacob Javits, spoke of “the deep expectation that flowers will grow from his grave for the benefit of man”. The eulogist spoke of “his love for personal and national dignity” and celebrated the warmth and the personal friendship this great United States president exuded. Ronald Reagan, who was described by our late Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow as “a cowboy”, was said to have believed in truth in the conduct of world affairs and his “calling evil by its name” was lauded. His “willingness and faith in praying for the one who shot him before he prayed for himself” was highlighted. It was even said that Ronald Reagan “waited for the Lord to call him home”.
Rosa Parks’ eulogist Oprah Winfrey marvelled at her will to be able to stand up by sitting down and confronting 400 years of history that denigrated Blacks. But maybe time did not allow Oprah to speak to the nature of Rosa’s relationship with God. Robert F. Kennedy was eulogized by Senator Edward Kennedy. Of him he said: “He need not be idolized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life.” He said Robert was to be remembered “simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it; saw suffering and tried to heal it; who saw war and tried to stop it”.
The eulogist of Steve Jobs of Apple computers boldly declared “death did not happen to Steve, he achieved it”. His sister Mona Simpson regretted not growing old together and of his going to a better place. According to her, her brother’s last words which he repeated three times were: “Oh Wow!” In eulogizing Queen Elizabeth, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey spoke of her strong Christian faith and of her graciousness and declared: “Many have done excellently, but you have exceeded them all.”
Our country has produced some great political and business leaders. Tears ran down my cheeks when the late “Sonnie” Mitchell, who eulogized our “Father of Independence”, said with a break in his voice: “. . . a pillar of the Caribbean has fallen.” J.M.G.M. ‘Tom’ Adams was eulogized by Dean Harold Crichlow of St Michael’s Cathedral. Without a doubt, Tom Adams was a giant of a leader and so was his father before him. 
While eulogists can say anything and while God’s report on us is what matters in the final analysis, it is always a note of sheer celebration of a life well-lived when it can be said that the deceased knew and served God in a personal way. My one desire is that those who eulogize us, not just our leaders, will honestly be able to assert that we had an active and personal relationship with God. For in the final analysis, this is all that will count. Nothing else will!
• Matthew Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum on Education, and a social commentator.

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