Please read the essay entitled, “Always Go to the Funeral” by Dierdre Sullivan. Look up unfamiliar words in your dictionary. Then write your essay of approximately 450 words, with an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.
This is an explanatory essay. In it, you must respond to the following questions (although not necessarily in this order):
- What advice did the father give his daughter? What was her immediate reaction to it? What was her final conclusion?
- How does the father’s suggestion that people do the right thing even when they don’t really feel like it apply to other situations?
- Tell about an experience when you or someone you know did or didn’t “do the right thing.” What was the result?
Your essay should fully answer all three parts. Read each one carefully and plan your answer before you begin.
(Note: Dierdre Sullivan grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. and traveled the world working odd jobs before attending law school at Northwestern University. She is now a freelance attorney.)
Always Go to the Funeral
by Dierdre Sullivan
I believe in always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.
The first time he said it directly to me, I was sixteen and
trying to get out of going to the funeral for Miss Emerson, my
old fifth-grade math teacher. I did not want to go. My father was
unequivocal. “Dee,” he said, “you’re going. Always go to the
funeral. Do it for the family.”
So my dad waited outside while I went in. It was worse
than I thought it would be: I was the only kid there. When the
condolence line deposited me in front of Miss Emerson’s shell-
shocked parents, I stammered out, “Sorry about all this,” and
stalked away. But, for that deeply weird expression of sympathy
delivered twenty years ago, Miss Emerson’s mother still remembers
my name and always says hello with tearing eyes.
That was the first time I went unchaperoned, but my parents
had been taking us kids to funerals and calling hours as a matter of
course for years. By the time I was sixteen, I had been to five or
six funerals. I remember two things from going to funerals: bottomless
dishes of free mints, and my father saying on the ride home, “You
can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”
Sounds simple—when someone dies, get in your car and go to
calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal
philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.
“Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right
thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself
of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to
and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent
only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the
painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy
hour. The shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the
daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly been so epic. Most
days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
In going to funerals, I’ve come to believe that while I wait to make
a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that
let me share life’s inevitable, occasional calamity.
On a cold April night three years ago, my father died a quiet death
from cancer. His funeral was on a Wednesday, middle of the work week. I
had been numb for days when, for some reason, during the funeral, I turned
and looked back at the folks in the church. The memory of it still takes my
breath away. The most human, powerful, and humbling thing I’ve ever
seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people
who believe in going to the funeral.
Definitions for words in bold: “Always Go to the Funeral”
unequivocal: completely clear
condolence line: people on line
to express sympathy
unchaperoned: unaccompanied by
a responsible adult
shiva: Jewish mourning period
humdrum: dull; ordinary