Jim Furlong: Smiles & Headstones

I don’t think I’ll ever understand what the world is about. Somebody I know well died last week. Still the Raptors were on and so was the Blues-Bruins series. I had to watch. I think.

Intellectually there seems something “off” about just going on with the world but the world does go on.  

I remember well when my aunt, the woman who raised me into adulthood, died at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home. She was in her mid-90s, so it wasn’t a great tragedy. She had been in “the home” for years and I visited her about three or four times a week. At least that many times. It became part of my life. 

When she passed and went to her eternal reward, as we say, there came the realization that I didn’t have to do that visiting any more on my way home from work or on weekends.


She was an important person in my life but there is no question but the quality of my life improved when she died. I could get home now at a decent hour to be with my family. There was in there somewhere that apparent conflict over right and wrong. 

A quick funny little unrelated sidebar story here in two sentences. When aunty died, I was chief mourner and I arranged the funeral and picked out the headstone and had it engraved. On it besides her name and dates of birth and death I had the phrase… “Requiem in Pace” put on it… In fact, as I later found out, the phrase made no sense and should have read “Requiescat in pace” which is a prayer in Latin that eternal peace be granted. In fact, the letters RIP, still in use by the Undertaker and funeral parlours, mean just that. A request. What I had engraved on the tombstone wasn’t a request; it was just words about rest and peace. There was no verb. In that form I used you might find those words in an ad for Sealy posturepedic mattresses that promises Rest …in peace. I digress.

At Beaumont Hamel in France some years ago a Canadian Forces Reserves captain told me he flipped out because a bystander had thrown a cigarette butt on a path in the memorial park. No harm was intended by the guy with the smoke. While I understand the frustration of the captain no harm was meant by the smoker who probably was on vacation, but the question is real; How are you supposed to act? 

The subject has been raised about visitors to the World War Two concentration camps. How should you present yourself? Can you smile? Can someone say something funny? Can you have a Mars Bar and a Coke at a restaurant at Dachau or near it? 

Anne Frank a ‘Belieber’?

Did you know that Justin Bieber is under fire because after he visited the home of diarist Anne Frank in Amsterdam, he wrote in the guest book he hoped the young Holocaust victim would have been a “belieber,” the popular term for his fans? So how outraged are you? Where do we find right or wrong? You are asking the wrong person. I couldn’t even get a headstone engraving right.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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