I was poking around YouTube the other day trying to find a film Jim Henson had done before he became famous for his muppets (you’d probably never guess it was the same guy if you didn’t know his background). Instead of finding that, I found something entirely different and unexpected, as so often happens when you are innocently surfing the web. I found Frank Oz’s eulogy of Jim Henson from Henson’s funeral.
It’s worth a watch – it’s perhaps the most amazing eulogy I’ve ever seen. What I like about it is that Oz bases his words around one simple act that Jim Henson did – a gift that Jim put together for Frank one Christmas. But just as Jim Henson dissected the character of Bert, Frank Oz used this present to dissect the character of Jim Henson. Oz described Henson’s love of layers and detail, his excitement at giving gifts to people, his utter enjoyment in slaving away on something for someone he cared about.
Frank Oz used his eulogy to illustrate how a gift from a long time ago had shown him how much Jim Henson had loved him, and in saying that, you can tell that Frank Oz took that as the highest of honors. It’s everything a eulogy should be.
I found myself wondering though, as I listened, whether Frank Oz had ever mentioned these amazing observations to his friend. Did Jim Henson know that this gift had made such an impression? Did he know that the gift had touched Frank Oz’s heart?
Eulogies are kind of selfish
I have decided that eulogies are sort of silly. They really are not for the person who has left us. They’re for us. So often you hear people say things like, “I wish I had told that person xyz,” or “I never told that person how much I care.” You are really saying those words to lift the burden from your own soul. Which is fine. But I keep wondering if there isn’t a better way to go. I keep wondering if there’s a way, an easy way, to interweave eulogies into the land of the living.
Ew, that’s awkward!
Of course, we say things in eulogies that may not be easy to say to a person face-to-face in real life. “I really appreciate you,” “I love you,” things like that. People tend to shy away from these heartfelt sentiments cuz ya know, it makes ya look kind of mushy. A lot of foot shuffling happens. Some jokes may lighten the touch of these heavy words of gratitude. It’s just not an easy thing for us to do for some reason.
So, I keep thinking of a scene from The Wire, where a cop who is retiring has a “wake.” He is lying there in an open casket and all of his co-workers are eulogizing him, and he isn’t allowed (technically) to say anything. It got me to thinking, maybe we could introduce something like that into our poor depraved society. Maybe we could have a day where people get to say whatever they want to say to you (hopefully good) and you aren’t really allowed to respond, taking away some of that mushy pressure. I don’t know, would that make it easier?
The weight of words unspoken
One of the greatest regrets people have, either when their own life is ending or when they are losing one they love, is that they did not say everything they wanted to say. What stops us? What makes it easier after the person has gone away?
People say we live in a time of fleeting friendship. That may or may not be true, but surely now is as good a time as any to make sure that the people you do care about KNOW it. Even if it’s just a little thing, go ahead and say it. Why wait? As Clint Eastwood might well say, “Go ahead. Make their day.”
Or am I crazy?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/3258488/ via Creative Commons