A great old movie is “Waking Ned Devine”. This movie, set in a tiny coastal town in Ireland, is a pretty sweet and wholesome movie … if you forget about the fact its about swindling the government out of millions.
The title character, Ned Devine, wins the lottery but in the shock of realizing what he won he dies in a sudden heart attack. When another local fellow, Jackie, realizes this he devises a plan where he and another, Micheal O’Sullivan (and yes, the names matter here) will convince the government that Ned is still alive until they can cash the lottery check. Both of these guys are not full time swindlers, both are well into their 80’s, and look older than that. In short order, they realize they can’t get away with it alone – so they pull in everyone in the town, all 27 people in the town. Originally, Jackie tries to play the part of Ned to the lottery man, but when the lottery man arrives unexpectedly Micheal must step in as Ned … in a scene including Micheal riding on a scooter wearing a helmet and nothing else (did I mention he was over 80?).
The stakes are quite high for the people involved. Sure, the crime isn’t like murder or anything, but these were old men and any sentence would be a life sentence. Because it was Jackie’s idea, he was more than happy to go to jail for the rest of his life; but now he had the added pressure of seeing Micheal be punished worse made him think he needed to back out and take the blame. But the townfolk gave him hope, so they pushed on … except they had one piece of business to take.
Ned Devine’s funeral. They brought out the royal mail truck even to take Ned to his final resting place. A nice service, a church full of all the town, and they were all ready to say goodbye to an old friend. It was all going swimmingly, until the lottery man showed up again; just as Jackie was about to give the eulogy.
The whole town went into full panic. They all looked up to Jackie looking at what to do. Jackie looked down at his friend, Micheal O’Sullivan, now having again to make believe he was Ned Devine. Jackie paused for a moment, staring at the man who has been at his side for a very long time an idea formed, and he smiled at Micheal reassuringly … then, he gave this, one of the great speeches in all movies:
“Michael O’Sullivan was my great friend. But I don’t ever remember telling him that.
The words that are spoken at a funeral, are spoken too late for the man that is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral. To sit at the front, and hear what is said. Maybe say a few things yourself.
Michael and I grew old together. At times we laughed, we grew younger. If he was here now, if he could hear what I say, I’d congratulate him on being a great man, and thank him for being a friend.”
I’ve said a couple of times that this last couple weeks have been like attending my own funeral. I got to spend time with some great friends. Some I have been able to speak to like it is their funeral, some I have been too sober to say those kinds of things. Sometimes in Kansas, I spent a good deal of time alone, but there were some here that were as much family as any. These were friends that were true as they could come. Friends that grew old with me, but at times … when we laughed … we grew younger.
Thank you to all who have been great friends.