Random House, New York. 300 pages
Occasionally when presiding at a funeral I wonder what will be said of me when I’m dead and gone. It’s a sobering thought and one that I don’t resist. As the funny (usually shallow) stories are piling up about the deceased, I cringe that the person’s life has been reduced to a few good jokes. Then there are the other occasions when the fullness of one’s life is revealed as a testimony to the work of God in a human being over a lifetime. Of the dead one it is said, “now her baptism in made complete in death.” I love that line because it reflects clearly what the early church believed: All of life is a preparation for a good death. Our baptism launches us into life that leads to death. In between is our opportunity to develop a character that displays the life of Christ in our speech and action.
In David Brooks’ recent book he describes this lifelong journey as building “eulogy virtues” vs. “resume virtues.” This a fine book of social criticism that draws upon Augustine, Dorothy Day, Bayard Rustin and others in examining character development. The argument is that too much is given to “resume virtues” to the detriment of the “eulogy virtues.” This seems clear in the current political climate. I can’t imagine anyone who would be satisfied solely with resume virtues, much less jokes, at their funeral. Of course, the only way to avoid that is to build a character now that makes life worth living.