Two Eulogies – Matthew McGuirk
January 16, 2022
I think about my writing a lot sitting in our diner, across from the same friends I’ve known all these years, but slipping in and out of the past as seamlessly as we all seem to, one of the hardest pieces I ever wrote was a eulogy for a good friend. I remember the night before like a clip show on loop, a track stuck on the same lyric or whatever other analogy you might want to use.
I’ve always been good at writing, that’s not the issue. If anything, I’ve got two speeches written: one is the socially acceptable piece and the other is the honest piece. I’m trying to think of another situation where honesty isn’t the best method, but my brain is struggling to pull anything to the forefront. My life is fine, but this really struck me hard and I’m not quite sure what to do. I’ll be fine soon enough and will it really matter which speech I gave? I know which I’d love to say and which I will say and the two aren’t the same. Looking over the two printed pieces of paper is difficult because in one hand I’ve got the ideal of my friend and in the other I’ve got a plea to him and anyone who knew him.
Jason was a great friend and an awesome guy who will be missed. If he were here today, he wouldn’t want us all wiping our eyes for him, he’d probably even crack a joke. When I look back at his life, I remember some of the best years of my life in his shadow. We all know Jason’s a big guy and that’s why I’m so pale. (wait for laugh) Anyways, he always had my back in school, like if I told a joke at the expense of another big guy. One day in high school I said Ray Alexander’s shirt was probably made out of a picnic blanket. I thought it was pretty funny, but he grabbed me and shoved me against those lockers and I thought I’d start crying, but Jason came running in and knocked Ray down. Ray stood back up and just kinda stood there looking at Jason for the longest time, but he knew he didn’t want to take this any further. Really, nobody messed with Jason, he was a legend on the football field and had that reputation as the toughest guy in school.
There was that time in college when Cindy Phillips dumped me after a couple dates and Jason met me for some coffee. It really shook me up about her, to be honest, thinking she was the one, so I told him I needed to talk. He really didn’t say anything and I think that worked out best because I talked myself in circles, almost my own therapist, but he was there and I felt better.
I’m sure we all have great memories with Jason and I’d like everyone to close their eyes for a moment and picture him at one of those good times. (pause) Open your eyes, but I want us all to hold those memories close because Jason isn’t gone, he’ll live on with us.
I’m asking you on this normally solemn day to put a smile on for the man that saved my ass physically more times than I can count and was an emotional support without saying many words. If Jason were here, he would raise a beer with us and clink to good health and many more good times to come. (pull a flask from my pocket and cheers?) I implore you to give your best to the world like Jason has and put more good in than bad. Jason, here’s to the times we had and the times we’ll remember.
Every time I look it over it feels like I’m skirting passed what really happened. It feels like he passed of old age, some 80 year old that lived his whole life and had so many great experiences. I’m not sure I can get through that speech without throwing my hands in the air, or the paper and pulling the other one out of my pocket, the one that actually matters and the one that actually tells the story and the one that actually tells the truth when no one else will. Just thinking about the whole situation makes me fight back tears, but what did I know of what happened to him? What did I really know of his pain and secrets?
Jason was a great friend and an awesome guy who will be missed. Let’s be honest though, we all let this slip and that’s why we’re here. Jason had a lot of life ahead of him and I feel like I’m partially responsible for him not sitting in a diner with us today or going to the movies or going on a date. Why didn’t I reach out and ask him how he was or when he looked a little down or thought a little too long ask him what was going on? I think we all have a part in Jason’s death and we need to come to terms with that today.
He’s sitting inside that box dead because no one reached out a hand or an ear to help a man that was in trouble. We don’t know what was going on in his head or why he felt so alone or so desperate, but he did. Maybe if one of us in this room pushed him a little harder or gathered a couple extra words, I wouldn’t need to be giving this speech in front of you all today with him jammed in a box that’s hiding his face because it isn’t all there anymore. Think about it, we can’t even look at him before he’s put in the ground because he thought there was no way out and did what he thought was right or would let him feel better again. He can’t have an open casket because he isn’t all there anymore and that fucking bothers me because I should be able to look at my friend before he’s put in the ground and covered with dirt and left to rot. You guys probably think I’m crazy for saying this, but do you really think he wanted to go like this? I can’t even imagine his last moments before he did what he did. Is that how he wanted to go or do you think he wanted help and would have been willing to work through what he was dealing with? I think he would have and we could have him here today talking about sports or drinking a beer on a sunny day or hitting on girls he thought were cute, anything but where he is now. I’d take him in Utah and he can text me once a month about how bad the Jazz are over what happened to him. I’d take him in fucking Australia, halfway across the world, developing an accent or Alaska walking on an oversized bear rug, anything but in that damn box with the fucking lid closed so we can’t see what’s left of his face on the last day we could see him before he’s put in the ground for us to sit next to his stone once a month or twice a year or fucking think of him once in a blue moon when were drunk. It’s too fucking late now though. I wish you were here, Jason and I wish I helped you when I could have!
I looked at the two pieces and knew neither of them made sense: one because it wasn’t the truth and the other because it wasn’t tactful. I’m going to write him an elegy instead and I fucking suck at poetry, so at least that’ll give people a laugh on a day nobody is looking forward to. If we’re being honest though, I should just stand up there, open the casket and let people look at his mangled face or whatever the doctor or mortician could do for it before putting him in the casket. Look at what the bullet did to the flesh, bone and cartilage of his face after he stuck that shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger that night. Sometimes the world needs honesty and for most of us, looking at his face like that would give us closure and show us that to put himself through what he did, he had to be in a lot of pain that none of us were realizing.
I remember pondering those speeches and am still not sure I made the right one. I hate that the ghost of him creeps in more than the teen I want to remember, how the shaking finger I never saw is more seared in my memory than any of his football hits or times he had my back, how a click and explosion is more present than any words that crossed his palette and how I see his body in that casket more often than that football jersey.