There was a time during my tenure as a Chief of Staff when quite a few of our doctors died. Attending the funerals wasn’t that uncommon, but that time seemed like more than usual. I attended most of them, not ex officio, but because they were my friends. The ceremonies differed in the religion, style, location. But every one of them included a eulogy.
And each time, listening to the ceremonial music, a litany of funeral marches played in my mind.
Many composers wrote that type of music. Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Mahler. They all wrote the masterpieces. But Chopin wrote the one which moves me the most. The simple three-part structure, first and third in minor, the second in the pastoral, happy major. When the parts in a minor scale portray grief for the deceased, the second part describes joy from the well-lived life. The composition is magnificent in its simplicity. A superb example of Polish music.
So all the eulogies reminded me of the second part of Chopin’s Funeral March. All the speakers said how great the person was. Good husband, great father, and an incomparable doctor. They described glorious moments and funny moments in his––I don’t remember any women––life. But there was one problem. The person, to whom all these tributes were directed, this person couldn’t hear them. Maybe even he didn’t know how wonderful his life was.
At the next General Staff meeting, I told the doctors that every person, including me, would rather hear all the accolades when we are still alive. This could make our days.
I still don’t know if I’ve changed any minds. Certainly, in my case, I hadn’t heard any more prizes. Maybe there weren’t many to begin with. Well, no matter.
But Chopin’s Funeral March is still my favorite.