Are these telltale signs that we are a callous nation?

If you want to know what a people or society cherishes, listen to what they say in funeral tributes.

When mourning departed loved ones, people abandon all pretexts and face life with a rare sense of sobriety – only those things that matter get mentioned. In such times, what dominates speeches are virtues and values cherished by society and practiced by the departed.

As a pastor, I have listened to many: “My dad was such a loving man and such a strict disciplinarian,” a child reminisces. “I recall the day I came home after midnight. I got such a thrashing,” the grieving son recalls with fond nostalgia. “Mum was the pillar in our home,” another child says of her departed mother. “What I love most about mum is how she would reprimand us on the spot if we did anything wrong. Sometimes it was so embarrassing when with friends; but looking back, I realise that I am who I am today because of her no-nonsense discipline.”

A grown man says of his aunt, “she taught us to love and respect others and never allowed us to flaunt our privileged possessions or positions.”

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At another service, a friend steps forward to offer his tribute, “Joe was an amazing man – principled to the core! Though it seemed like legalistic bondage, I secretly admired the fact that his life was so focused. He pursued his values with dogged commitment – never swayed by the crowd.”

A mother speaks up about her departed daughter: “Annie was special. Her spirituality was the centrepiece of her life. Though some of her friends tried to lure her into frolicking, she stood her ground. Her ambition was to keep herself pure for her future husband. So sad that the accident has taken her just before her wedding,” the grieving mother recollects with pride and fondness.

Interestingly, though, there are speeches I have never heard at any funeral.

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A young man saying of his departed father: “My dad was a carefree liberal. He was least bothered by which movies we watched, what parties we attended, or whether we were into betting.” Or a girl declares, “When I came home one day and told my mum I was a lesbian, she held me close and praised me for my progressive lifestyle – she was such a mum!”.

A friend mourns a great colleague: “I have lost a great friend. Hassan is the one who introduced me to fraud at our place of work. I would be a pauper today if he had not taught me how to cut deals with suppliers.”

A patient says of a demised doctor: “I have lost a great friend. Doctor Williams is the one who helped me procure all the three abortions many years ago when pregnancies threatened my education as a high school student.”

Well, if these sound rather callous words to say of the departed, it is because they tell of callous acts.

Yet, it is a fact that we are fast becoming a callous nation. Some of us seem to believe that our traditional and religious values are so outmoded and outdated as to be ditched for more “progressive” ones.

We therefore imagine that the disciplines that our fathers taught us are primitive strictures that we must not encumber ourselves and our children with. What we do not realise is that these are the foundations of life that made us who we are.

Unfortunately, as we have consistently and persistently destroyed these foundations, our world has begun to systematically crumble.

Our values have become so warped that we celebrate the wicked and condemn the righteous – we honour the corrupt, celebrate perversion and murder the unborn. We have a generation of men, women and children who have no regard for anyone or anything. Life is all about me, myself and I. Those who interfere can and should be rid of. If a spouse gives you trouble, kill them and if need be, the children too. If a girlfriend cannot comply with your demands, get rid of her.

And, if a pregnancy interferes with your well-being, get rid of it. Your life is far more important than the encumbrance of a mere foetus.

One shudders to imagine what our society will look like by the time of Vision 2030. There may be no one to ride our web of superhighways or climb the myriad skyscrapers – unless, of course, we retrace our steps and listen carefully to our real selves in funeral tributes.

If it should not be said at your death, you should not do it in life.

- The writer is the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]

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TraditionsCallous nationCallous acts