Eulogy for My Ego
I stop just shy of the powder blue curtain that conceals the operations of the funeral home with the actual room where the wake is taking place. The place smelled like cinnamon mouthwash, scented candles, and floral perfume. After thanking the kind staff for accommodating what could only be considered an unorthodox request, I peek out to see who’s there. I see a packed room of the saddened well-wishers as they console the family of the deceased, each other, and stare upon the closed coffin with an adios good buddy gaze. It’s clear that the deceased had many friends and acquaintances from different walks of life and corners of the world. I hear familiar voices and accents from such faraway places as Canada! I see a group of kids ranging in age of eight to fourteen looking bewildered and confused and I think, for their sakes, I need to go out and make clear what’s happening and to read my eulogy.
I step out from behind the curtain and the room quickly starts to vibrate with a symphony of gasps, sighs, and a few uncomfortably awkward laughs. I hear my best friend, John, who was in front, sitting next to my mother say, “Kirk, you son of a bitch”.
I nervously glance around the room and begin to read a statement I had prepared and my voice starts out shaky and then settles:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, in Chicago, to lay to rest the ego of a boy, a teenager, a young man, and a privileged, middle-aged man named Kirk Miller. It’s not a sad day, despite signs of the early arrival of fall and potential of nuclear winter, no, it is indeed a day of celebration. See, I know this man extremely well, since I am, in fact, the one who murdered him of my own free will. I am Kirk Miller.”
Mom: What kind of circus is this? Who’s in that coffin?
Dad: Let’s hear this out. Maybe he’s going to apologize to you for being insensitive”
Kelly: “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. What the F*#k? He’s paying for a funeral home, but he’s alive? Who is in that coffin?”
Renee: I took off work for this shit show?
Keri: “I knew he wasn’t dead. I friggin’ knew it. Kirk wouldn’t die… Somethin’”.
“Let us pray, Lord, the Bible doesn’t speak of Ego, it only speaks of virtues, of stories, of love, and mercy. Kirk’s Ego was born of all mankind’s need to compare himself to others, to contribute to his own superiority, to build walls, and fancy homes, and obsess with material objects. Kirk’s ego was 45 when I killed it. it’s bruised, punctured, and now, a truly lifeless being. My ego is dead”
I see a few former coworkers with whom I wasn’t close, stand up and walk out. It appears that by living, I had ruined their social media posts about their good old colleague Kirk who died too young, and that we all need to carpe diem, #yolo. I know this because I read the posts and nearly liked them myself out of shear #fomo.
“My ego was born into this world tabula rosa. It was fed, comforted, spoken to, sung to, warmed, loved and highly regarded by his young parents aged 22 and 26 respectively.”
Mom: This is gonna be about us Butch. Hold my hand.
“Mom and dad, you provided me with food, shelter, warmth, clothing, and love as a child. You helped me learn to crawl, to walk, to ride my big wheel, to play nicely with friends and cousins, and there was never any shortage of toys and games around from all the great pictures you took. We moved around a lot, but I know you always considered me and Renee into that equation. Mom, you packed us up and moved us from Milwaukee to Green Bay without telling Dad so you could have the support you needed from your parents who lived there. This took great strength and courage. As I entered boyhood, the complexity of life began to grow swiftly. I had just learned how to ride a bike and take off the training wheels when something in your marriage snapped, and mom, Renee, and I moved out of the house where I lived from 5 to 7. I have vivid memories of hiding in different rooms throughout the house as you chased dad down with a butcher knife which yelling and screaming at the top of your lungs. I didn’t know what was happening at the time, but I know this was something big.
I wasn’t yet acquainted with the concept of life and death, but I was learning that life wasn’t all Mr. Rogers and Donnie and Marie. There were dynamics in your relationship that were way above my comprehension at seven years of age. Nonetheless, I had school, Grandparents, a few weekends with Dad that I can remember, and a mother who was shattered and exhausted from carrying the whole burden of Parenthood without an equal partner in the picture as dad spent nights after work in the bar, and as I later learned, participated in extracurricular activities outside of the vows of marriage. Of course, I didn’t know how painful and what an effect it could have on someone until it later happened to me, but without the responsibility of children. Mom, you were my primary parent and source of love in my childhood and for this I thank you. I love you both.
Mom: “I didn’t know he remembered the knife thing”
Dad: “It’s pretty unforgettable Diane. PS. He just said he loved you.”
Mom: “No he doesn’t, he only loves himself, money, and the attention”
“Dad started coming around the house we moved into, in a rougher part of town, a lot more in 1980–1981 for lunch breaks from work and for dinners, and it was kind of cool having two houses for a couple years. Then in 1982, mom, you were pregnant and had Kelly and we all moved back into the house in Cass Street, where you still live and two years after that you had Keri! Suddenly our family was at 6, all under the same roof. 1980s bliss. Reagan was President, the Hostages came home, just like us, and you seemed to be happier again with Kelly and Keri, as Renee and I started to look after ourselves and our new roles as big brother and big sister. “
Kelly: “We saved their marriage”
Keri: “Yeah, isn’t that Somethin’”
Renee: “Mom loves babies and little kids. Keri, when you had Morgen, mom started to get better again”
“By the time I was 10, I didn’t really feel like I had my youth left in me and these were not ego building years, they were ego-bruising years. I was put in a special reading program, I had the pain of wondering if I was responsible for the separation in your marriage, and I was molested repeatedly by my cousin”.
There goes the symphony of gasps and shocked strangers and family as I see my cousin exit the room.
“By the time I was going through puberty, I had already experienced involuntarily intimacy and started to pack on the pounds to help substitute for absent love that started to starve my ego. As if the Chips Ahoy, Sour Cream and Onion chips, and string cheese was going to love me back. If anything, it made me even more sad and lonely. I was so sad in fact, that I started computer programming on the Vic 20 and Commodore computers you got me. I lived in a relatively catatonic state until 17 when I woke up and realized that I needed to do more to develop personally to escape all the pain of this period of my life. I lost 40 pounds before senior year and got accepted into the college I wanted to attend- UW Stevens Point. Mom remember when I got the acceptance letter and read it out loud? You responded with, ‘Who’s going to pay for that’. Such a proud moment… Somehow, we all managed. I graduated college, went on to grad school that I paid for myself and became a self-sufficient young man. By the time I moved to New York in 1996, I was surviving on Triscuits and yogurt covered raisins charged to my own credit cards I had started to pay myself.”
Mom: “He got to move to New York, what is he complaining about?”
Dad: “Well, that’s where he wanted to go and where he landed a job out of the New York Times.”
Mom: “He just got lucky. He’s bragging at he own wake!”
Dad: “I’m pretty proud of him”
Mom remains silent.
Renee: “I visited him when he was there!”
Kelly: “Me too!”
Keri: “I was too little”.
“My purpose in bringing you all here today is to bury some estrangement, awkwardness, and pain. As I think about where that all comes from, it comes from my ego and my past, not from my physical being, my present and my future. I’m here to bury my ego once and for all. I have had the most incredible adult life to date, despite my ego. From buying my first condo at 32, to traveling to 37 countries, to having found real love once, and an artificial love that felt like the real thing, I’m more than slightly blessed. And I’m only half way done. I forgive and release everyone and I hope that everyone forgives and releases me. Let’s all help each other move forward with life and let bygones be bygones”.
<Polite gulf clap applause>
Mom: “Easy for him to say, he has so much”
Dad: “Let it go Diane. Let’s go up there and hug him”
Mom: “I’m not ready to go…”
To be continued…