This post is going to be something a little different. Rather than my humble opinions on various aspects of the writing craft, I will instead offer a small example of my writing. A sample, if you would, of the finished product.
I had published some examples of fiction earlier in the life of my blog. Then I discovered that many publications consider works published on a blog as “published.” In other words, they won’t touch them. So, no more fiction I might wish to publish later.
But first, a short explanatory note about this work. For those who aren’t already aware, my father passed away on July 8. As we were preparing for his memorial service I was told I needed to write the eulogy. Apparently, my family thinks I have a way with words, or something. Whatever the reason, I did write and deliver the eulogy at my father’s funeral.
It is the most difficult thing I have ever written.
EULOGY FOR DANIEL BOYLE
I have been asked to say a few words about my father. My Dad.
Where to start? How do you do justice to almost seventy-five years of life, of loving, in a few paragraphs? How do you put into words what words were never designed to convey?
My Dad would answer that question this way: you do the best you can.
So. Who was my Dad?
My Dad was a man.
“Well yeah,” some of you are saying. “We kind of figured that.”
No, not just an adult male; he was a man. There is a difference.
A man is strong. Look up the strong, silent type and you’ll find a picture of my Dad. He worked hard for years to make a better life for his family and that meant taking overtime whenever he could get it. There were many times when the family would be gathered around the dinner table in the evening and the phone would ring. Us older kids would ask “Are you home?” And he would usually nod that he was.
I once asked him how he’d worked for the same company for twenty-five years. He told me that you just kept going back the next morning.
So yes, he was tough and he was strong, but he was so never violent. He never raised his hand against the women in his life and never against us children. (Other than the rare butt swat we always deserved.) In fact, I never saw, nor heard of him raising his hand against anybody. When he raised a hand it was to help someone, not hurt them.
He celebrated his children’s victories and consoled us in our defeats. All he wanted was that we do our best. And when we did screw up or make a bad decision he never belittled us, never made us feel stupid. Usually, he’d just ask a simple question: did you learn anything from this?
Lastly, Dad had a deep and powerful faith in God. He didn’t talk about it very much; it was a private affair, between him and God. But as the saying goes, actions speak much louder than words and those of us close to him know that he honestly, consciously tried to live his life in a manner that Jesus would approve. And he came pretty close.
In his final hours at the hospital, we tried to find a priest to give him last rights. The hospital staff called one, only to find that he was out fishing and couldn’t be reached. They tried valiantly to find another priest, but were unsuccessful. This never happens in the movies. Personally, I wasn’t worried about it. In my mind, the extreme unction would almost be just a formality.
I’ll leave you with an image in my head.
(I have lots of images in my head, but I’m only going to share this one.)
Dad stands in front of St. Peter’s desk outside the golden gates of heaven. Not the battered, worn-out body he lived in toward the end, but the lean, strong body of the young Marine, ready to take on the world.
St. Peter consults his reservation book and hesitates, stroking his beard.
“Is there a problem?” Dad asks.
“Well, a minor one,” St. Peter says. “But yes, there is a problem. It seems you did not receive Last Rights before you passed over. I can’t let you in without Last Rights.”
Dad sighs. “What happens now?”
“You’ll have to go to the waiting area until other arrangements can be made.”
Dad is clearly disappointed, but the rules are rules. Before he can move, a shadowy figure emerges from the billowing clouds on the far side of the gates and steps up beside St. Peter.
“Is there a problem?” he asks, smiling at my Dad.
“Yes,” St. Peter tells him. “This young man has not received Last Rights, so he cannot gain immediate entry. I was just about to show him to the waiting area.”
“Oh, Peter.” Jesus smiles and shakes his head. “Don’t be such a Pharisee. Let the poor guy in.”
St. Peter starts, but then nods, writes something in the book, and the gates swing open.
Jesus steps over to Dad. “Forgive him. I love Peter like a brother, but even when we were wandering the hills of Galilea it was so hard to get him to see the big picture.”
“Come, walk with me,” Jesus takes Dad’s hand and leads him toward the gate. “I think there’s some people who want to see you.”