My father hated eulogies. After-the-fact eulogies – tributes to a dead person. Of course, I only heard him discuss this once. After a highly respected man in the neighborhood had died, we learned that so- and-so would do the eulogy.
Dad was not impressed. If you respected a person, he grumbled, his jaw tight, if you thought he was such great shakes, why wait until he died to mention it? If the person is important to you, say so when he can hear you.
The problem, of course, is that in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we believe everyone around us will stay that way. The problem, of course, is that all of us race from here to there and back again and think, “Oh, I’ll let him know next time.” Or, “I’ll write her a letter.” Or, “I’ll phone them tomorrow.”
A couple of years ago, I shared a quote from “A World Lit Only by Fire,” William Manchester’s 1992 history of the Dark Ages progressing into the Renaissance. He caught me with a passage about the blinders we all wear.
“Like all people at all times, they were confronted each day by the present, which always arrives in a promiscuous rush, with the significant, the trivial, the profound, and the fatuous all tangled together.”
So we have all this fatuous stuff intermingling with the profound and the significant. The envelope with the newest credit card offer looks exactly like the envelope holding my new auto club card – so I have to open everything. So it all piles up, because I have old apples to throw away, dinner to eat, phone calls to make and jokes to tell my husband.
And all around me, people important to me live their lives. They, too, have all that fatuous stuff intermingling with the profound and the significant.
Meanwhile, time passes. That’s its job. I gaze rapturously at the full moon and think, “Didn't I just see a full moon? Has it been 28 days already?”
And in his 65th year, Auburn Symphony Conductor Michael Goodwin died in a car crash. Just as unexpectedly as this paragraph. He died long before I was ready to live in a world without his high standards – long, long before I could begin to imagine Auburn without his insight and wisdom and ear.
In the days following his death, people ap-proached me with devastated faces. “How much we’ll miss him,” we said. “What a loss,” we said. “He meant so much to the community,” we said.
In Rob Haswell’s letter to the Journal, published last Thursday, the symphony’s business manager said that last weekend's KinderKonzert was standing-room only. What a fitting tribute to the musicians, the music, the community and to Goodwin.
I think of my father’s dislike of eulogies as I consider what to say here. Dad was right, to a point. Tell people what you think about them when they’re alive.
The thing is, where Michael Goodwin was concerned, all of us who attended the symphony’s concerts let him know how we felt about him every time he came on stage. At the last concert, following the beautiful, complex piece by Bruckner, we in the audience joined the musicians in expressing our admiration and gratitude. As we all applauded, the musicians stomped their feet on the stage. The din was terrific.
Finally, I share part of a conversation I had with Stephanie Rush, who plays the horn. Last year, she said she wished we could see his face when he was conducting. “We play the music,” she said. “But he plays us.”
I’m happy to say that I shared that comment with Michael. I’m also happy to say that I still hear the music.
Contact Susan Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.