In Memory Of…

We are back home in Bedfordshire. On Saturday, relaxing, and doing some reading, in my Kindle in the introduction to a (now well-known, if not exactly great) first novel, I came upon a (well-known if you know about it, of course) speech at a memorial for a recently deceased James Fenimore Cooper. It was offered by his friend, poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant:

[From my Instagram Stories.]

Reading it, I remembered how at her 2015 funeral church service I shared a eulogy for my late mother. It was (and is STILL) my TOUGHEST writing ever. Worse, I had to read it out loud, and while also paying attention to my (late) uncle’s (her older brother’s) death – my cousin was in the congregation – only two weeks before:

“After seeing …. crime novelist, and University ____________ creative writing instructor Uncle ____’s obituary [in a major newspaper], and naturally very upset over his sudden death, from her hospital bed my ill mother forced out a smile and joked, “Well, my brother made the newspaper one last time.”

I was told afterwards by several people that it was excellent. Even the funeral director said to me that he had heard many of such and mine was better than most. But they all have to say that sort of thing, don’t they?

I was more surprised I managed to get through it without breaking down. And it is impossible to sum up a life in a few minutes. But when the time comes, if asked to try to we all give it our best effort.

[A lounge bookshelf. Potton, England. Photo by me, March 8, 2020.]

After we are gone, what will be said about us? Like everyone else, I suppose authors do wonder too. I found myself thinking about what might be said about me:

…Yeh, Robert was a pal. But he exasperated Mrs. Nello. I think she will allow me to state here that being English she put up with his quirks because she thought, ‘Uh, he’s a Yank.’ Personally I also never understood his books. And Instagram? What was with that? He wasn’t a 20 year old woman? He wanted to write books like his uncle, and really gave it his best shot. I think some of what he wrote is okay, but some was just awful and really should be burned, but I never had the heart to tell him…

Uh, actually, we all hope it might sound more like this:

He was a giant. We know he was a philantrophist also and gave all of those millions to try to cure cancer. He also wrote brilliantly of Europe, Americans and early America too. I never got his obsession with Washington, Jane Austen, and Jefferson, but that was Robert. His millions of fans will miss him…

We should aim for it to be the latter, of course. That is the point to living: to have people say good things about us after we are no more. If we don’t leave a good track record behind, what was the point to living?

[Me. Paris, France, 1994.]

Have a good week, wherever you are. 🙂

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