Had they been given the full background, they might have selected differently. The union president had opposed my being hired and not much time had elapsed since I had arrived for him to become supportive. He was, at best, collegial. I, too, was collegial. Actually, I forgave him. After all, he had lost; I had been offered the job over his dissent.
So, surprised but willing, I set about to write the eulogy, but I could not. The more I tried, the blanker the page became. The blanker the page became, the foggier my memory became. I could not think of one thing to write, let alone dreaming up those wonderful warm fuzzy phrases for starting and finishing. There really is not a lot of advance writing time for a eulogy, and so the night before the funeral I was facing the prospect of reading a blank sheet the next day.
I took a walk around our mission grounds where I go when I need special time alone to think and to commune with God. I asked God for help and was led to understand that I had to forgive this man. But I had forgiven him, I argued. No, was the response. Forgiveness is not simply the deliberate pushing aside of malice or resentment. True forgiveness springs from love.
You mean, I have to love this guy, honestly, seriously, fully love him? I took in that concept with more than a bit of incredulity. How would that be possible?
Yet, it must be possible. The realization, nestled in certainty, that the need to love him was the key to writing the eulogistic words sank deeply into my consciousness.
Well, as we know, with God all things are possible. As I began to think of the good things he had done for several of my employees, the times he had come to me to ask me to bend some rules for the good of one person or another or to take in someone who had run afoul of management in another division, and the way in which he had worked tirelessly, selfless, and humbly for the benefit of the employees, I began to feel both love and respect for him. I wish I had been able to achieve this level of forgiveness and love while he was alive. The minute that wish crossed my mind, the dam holding back the eulogistic thoughts broke, and ink splattered all over my paper. I had a eulogy, a really decent eulogy, thanks be to God.
The next day after I delivered the eulogy, my boss's boss said that, based on the warmth of my words, it must have been difficult for me to write that eulogy. How little did he know how right he was -- but for the wrong reason. Several days later, the union president's friend found me in my office and told me that the family asked him to relay to me how meaningful they had found my eulogy. They wanted me to know that their healing had begun with my last word.
Amazingly, God taught me a lesson in forgiveness and love at the same time that He used me to help a family. Two birds with one stone!
Thinking back on it, I cannot help but think of the words of one of my favorite songs (sung by Sinead O'Connor), often mistakenly attributed to St. Francis (definitely convergent with the Weltanschauung of St. Francis although it can only be traced as far back as a French-language version, published in La Clochette (The Little Bell) in 1912):
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith ;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
(I have no idea why I am being led to re-post this particular story, with adaptation and added details. I guess someone needs to hear it.)