by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
“VOS IS” A MOIROLOGIST? (What is a moirologist?)
I learned a new “vort” (word) this week: “moirologist.” Yes, a “mirologist” is a hired mourner, who is compensated to lament or deliver a eulogy.
Had Scrooge not changed his ways he would have had to hire professional moirologists for his funeral if he wanted anyone in attendance.
Today, with the right “kredit-kartl” (credit card) you can even hire mourners for your funeral or find the right sentiment.
There are websites that offer “eulogy packs.” One such site lists a “Mother’s Eulogy Pack” that includes “9 speeches and 3 poems.” The cost: Only $25.95. Fathers go cheaper: $19.97. Go figure!! Yes, eulogies may be purchased for immediate download.
Some websites even give advice on what not to say in a eulogy. Anything that would be hurtful to the mourners such as a mention of alcoholism or drug taking should be avoided. I wonder what will be said at the funeral of Mary R. Kennedy, 52, the estranged wife of Robert Kennedy, Jr.? According to New York’s Westchester County Medical Examiner’s office, she died of asphyxiation by hanging. (FYI: The Yiddish word for suicide is “zelbstmord.”)
Any mention of family discord or a discussion that puts the deceased in a poor light should also be avoided. One should concentrate on the virtues of “der nifter” (deceased person).
In the chapter titled, “Mortality,” Anna Quindlen (“Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake - A Memoir”) writes that “memorial services and shiva calls and sympathy notes begin to blur, to seem like some continuous loop of murmured condolences and black clothes.”
She continues, “The stories of the terrorist attacks of 2001, the tsunami, the Japanese earthquake, always used numbers, the deaths of thousands a measure of how great the disaster. (Note: The Yiddish word for disaster is"umglik.”) Catastrophe is numerical. Loss is singular, one beloved at a time.”
Quindlin quotes the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. When she was diagnosed with lymphoma in her early sixties, she said, “If I had known this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have done all those sit-ups.”
Yes, Ms. Quindlin writes most often about motherhood and loss. The loss of her mother, she writes, made her “certain that life was short and therefore, it made me both driven and joyful.” She couldn’t waste time and couldn’t take anything for granted.
In an e-mail to Rev. Mark A. Long, I asked him the following question:
“...Do moirologists still exist today…and why is it necessary to go online and purchase eulogies for immediate download. Do we really need “eulogy packs” for mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc.?
My husband—of 53 years—recently passed away. Rabbi Rank officiated. Our three sons and three of our [adult] grandchildren got up and spoke lovingly. Yes, there were tears…but that’s perfectly acceptable behavior at a funeral.
I would very much appreciate hearing your thoughts on the above-mentioned topic.
Mark Long’s reply:
...regarding pre-packaged eulogies to use in preparing to honor a loved one, I find it no different than the great many prayer books, and other tools I have used to glean ideas. Some lean more heavily on their tools than do others, and sometimes I would lean on them more when I simply didn’t know the deceased so well. Frankly, many families do not have even one person in their midsts who feel comfortable standing and addressing their own family. Many often feel inadequate to the occasion.
Still, others harbor much pain and resentment. As you can see, the list of reasons why one might need this service is not small, as I’m sure you can imagine others with various dysfunctions within their family life that may make preparing a eulogy nearly impossible…” Blessings, Mark Long
Rabbi Anchelle Perl (Mineola, NY) was asked the following question:
An article titled, “The Outsourced Life” by Arlie Russell Hochschild, 5/6/12, The New York Times Sunday Review) talks about the role of a “moirologist.” The author writes, “a hundred—or even 40—years ago, human eggs and sperm were not for sale, nor were wombs for rent. Online dating companies, nameologists, life coaches, party animators and paid graveside visitors did not exist.”
In 2012 we can go online to websites like “Eulogies Made Easy” and purchase eulogies for immediate download. One such site offers “eulogy packs” for mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc.
In Judaism do we ever hire someone to give a eulogy? Would a Jewish funeral home have professional mourners?
I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on this topic. Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
One of the most touching—and humorous—eulogies that I recall was given by Craig Ferguson (“Late Late Show”) on 11/14/07. Dressed in a black suit and tie, Ferguson turned his usual 15-minute monologue into a beautiful eulogy for his father, Robert Ferguson. (Source: The Associated Press)
He said, in part, “If I get weepy, I don’t want any slow cameras zooming in and music and stuff like that. You don’t need to manufacture the drama. My heart’s broken, my father’s dead.”
BTW, his father was a hardworking postal worker in Scotland for 44 years.
Ferguson said that he was a “man of a few words” who bonded with his son while watching television.
“When I was watching television with him, I used to sit in front of him and he would sit behind me and he would put his hand on my head,” said Ferguson. “And I loved that. And we did it last week in the hospital.”
He continues, “He wasn’t in the generation that was like, ‘Son, we need to talk about our feelings.’ My dad would just say ‘all right.’ You knew what he meant when he said ‘all right.’”
Marjorie would like to share a portion of the eulogy done by Rabbi Max Wall, who was an army chaplain during World War II and spent four decades at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, VT. (Source: Wall Street Journal, 4/18/03)
On Monday he came out of retirement to deliver one more eulogy: for his grandson, 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Mark Evnin, killed in a firefight outside Baghdad.
“I’ve stood on this pulpit many a day and have sought to bring comfort and support to the bereaved,” the rabbi told mourners, according to the Burlington Free Press. “I never thought I would be in the same need as every one of you who I tried to console.” (Students at Cpl. Evnin’s alma mater, South Berlington High School, lined the street in front of their school Monday as the young Marine’s funeral procession passed by.)