A eulogy defines the hole left when an individual departs the community fabric...even if the eulogy is about a little old research chimp.
People write eulogies for those they have cared about, to attempt to keep a permanent place for them. In the records of life on earth we do not wish these deceased to be forgotten. With our words, we define the shape of the hole they have left in our communal fabric. What was it about them that was unique and is now missed?
Sometimes we round the edges a bit...leaving out the less good aspects of their personalities in favor of relaying and remembering what we loved. Mostly, I think of eulogies as being honest writing. There is no point in capturing for posterity an untrue essence about someone. We must sum up a life as accurately as we can if we are going to bother with the task.
When I read eulogies about animals I am comforted by how strong and real each of their individual personalities was and how much they touched the humans who knew them. Reading eulogies about animals allows us a chance to perceive how deeply each animal thinks during its life. It gives us a chance to understand just how much their lives are defined by the same things ours are. We read about their likes and dislikes, choices, friendships, defining histories and characteristics. What made up their lives? I have always tried to write carefully about the animals I have known and loved when they die. It is important they are remembered right.
Science is still questioning and coming to an understanding about the cognitive and emotional lives of other animals. Most religions still deny animals souls. But those that write eulogies about animals don't question these things. They just know from being touched by them. We can understand the depth and complexity of other animals' minds best in grieving their loss.
About a month ago, I got a photo and eulogy in my inbox about a chimp named Mandy who had just died at Save the Chimps sanctuary. It was written by her longtime care giver, Skye Connors. It was a beautiful account of a little old chimp's life...what she endured, what she liked, who her friends were and what were her ways and life at the sanctuary. It can be read here. With the eulogy and beautiful photo of the old chimp's face, one could certainly feel touched by this passing life.
Another recent and beautiful farewell to an animal who touched many lives is a tribute to Jasper the moon bear. I was sad to hear he had just died. Jasper's tale will be told in this blog later on down the road.