We Should Talk More About Dying, Cause You Will

Andrew Donaldson
6 min readNov 29, 2023

When folks use a famous funeral or celebrity death such as Rosalynn Carter’s to tell the world what they really think, believe them.

Photo by White House Photograph Office/Barbara Kinney, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Mounting the pulpit at the Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Jason Carter explained of Rosalynn Carter, “My grandmother doesn’t need a eulogy; her life was a sermon.”

It’s a line that’s been used in countless memorial services and even more sermons, seminars, and motivational sayings because a great truth is delivered in a simple saying. Most folks have been to the funeral where the person laid out at the front becomes in death a sinless saint according to the words flowing over the casket and into the gathered mourners. If we are fortunate, we get to attend the celebration of life of someone who had far more to praise than the allotted time allows.

This service was the latter. Most tributes are not what Rosalynn Carter got, of course. A front row of all the living first ladies per the departed’s specific request, a former and the sitting President of The United States of America, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks performing, live streaming to the world; while the mechanics of the tribute were familiar there is of course an elevated sense when it is someone as universally respected as Rosalynn Carter.

“The first rule about funerals,” I can hear my father’s voice clearly as he explained something he himself had officiated hundreds of times, “is to understand they are not about you.” I heard it growing up so many times but took until much later in life until I fully understood this maxim. I’ve come to use big public displays of folks passing on as an opportunity to really learn something by watching the reactions. Especially online with social media and news media, a famous person’s death becomes something of a canvas for folks to publicly paint whatever they want. Usually, they paint what they were already going to paint, just with the nomenclature and excuse of whoever died to crank it up from the usual simmering 6 to a viral-baiting 11.

When folks use a famous funeral or celebrity death to tell the world what they really think, believe them.

When the politically ate up knuckleheads online go on and on about Melania Trump being at the service — to the point the Carter…

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Andrew Donaldson

Writer. Mountaineer diaspora. Veteran. Managing Editor @ordinarytimemag on culture & politics, food writing @yonderandhome, Host @heardtellshow & other media