Last week I attended the funeral of a man who truly left the world a better place than he found it. Someone who positively affected everyone he met and whose funeral was filled with people who were close to him but also, people like me, who had the privilege
of meeting him a few times and felt compelled to go and pay their respects.
The funeral ended with two of his close friends giving beautiful eulogies that left everyone smiling as we could see, in our minds eye, who this man really was and the joy he left with his laughter, not to mention all the work he did for the gay community and those who are HIV+ and living with AIDS in this country. However, before the eulogies the priest had managed to make one great omission. He had remembered to mention the siblings, children, grandchildren and even ex-wife of our friend but he never once mentioned his long time partner.
I have to say that I was disgusted. I know, it’s a mass, what did I expect but this man just lost the love of his life!!! The whole family obviously respected their relationship as he was in the front row but the priest merely said “family and close friends”. I really felt it was a kick in the teeth. Perhaps this poor man was so heartbroken he didn’t notice, or at that particular time care, but the rest of the church, which was laden down with gays, was horrified.
Why is it that even at a time like this, when someone has lost someone they loved for over a decade, shared their life with and was there through all the ups and downs, gay relationships aren’t recognised? I’ve been to a funeral where the man who had passed away was going out with his girlfriend a matter of a year or two and she was mentioned, rightly, during the ceremony. It’s just such an underhanded and frankly cruel exclusion that it left me, and most of the congregation quietly fuming.
Thankfully, in this case, the eulogies were kept till the end and as I said, they were frank, honest and captured this man and his relationship with vivid passion and respect. However, the whole episode left me wondering how many times people’s funerals leave out a celebration of parts of the person that made them who they were. This man celebrated his sexuality and by doing so lead the way for many who followed, how can that be left out as we celebrate his life?
The crematorium was not such a religious place and his coffin was drapped in the rainbow flag as “somewhere over the rainbow” was sung proudly. His funeral was a beautiful testament
to the wonderful human being he was, but only because those who knew and loved him made sure of it. If it was left to the priest, the core of who he was would have been thrown aside.
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