Sunday, May 08, 2005

FUNERAL ORATIONS FOR A FALLEN FRIEND

I spent a lot of time searching the internet for news stories of my recently deceased colleague, Rep. Joe Moreno. I looked and searched, each time coming up with the same basic information of the details of the accident, the recovery of the passengers and the outpouring of stories and statements of appreciation for the life of Rep. Joe Moreno.

I slowly began to appreciate that in this new world, were great distances are brought closer by technology and modern communications, what we collectively were participating in as citizens of Texas was a contemporary form of an ancient tradition- a eulogy. I realized that I, like so many others was looking for a process where I could join with others to remember the goodness of this fine individual.

Human rituals are important for the living for us to make sense of the world around us and to honor those we hold dear. Church services and a funeral mass are the traditional customs of closure when we loose a loved one -- so too is the incorporated pagan ritual of eulogizing the dead.

Athenians and Romans have well documented rituals of honoring the fallen. Athenians began the ritual in the fifth century B.C. which consisted of a collective commemoration to all those who had died in the military campaigns of the previous year.

Roman funeral orations, in contrast to the Greek ones, were expressions of virtues of the ruling oligarchy, to praise a distinguished individual ordinarily by his closest relative.

We all seek answers to the question: Why? How can a man so giving and talented be taken at the height of his life? Why are the good taken so soon?

This must explain the growing demand for eulogies in spite of attempts by some religious authorities to squelch the practice.

Before 1980, fewer than 10% of funerals included a eulogy by someone other than a clergyman, says Robert Vandenbergh, past president of the National Funeral Directors Association. By 1990, the percentage had risen to about 25%, he says. "Now, it's in excess of 50%."

We are all in the search for answers and we all want some way of expressing our remorse in communion with others. It is all part of the human condition.

Because so many people were touched by Joe Moreno and because not everyone can attend his funeral in Houston or in Austin, I think I will give the opportunity to whomever asks, access to this journal. In that way we can each participate in a longstanding and necessary tradition and honor our dear friend Joe.

We will begin tomorrow.

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