Always Go to the Funeral” by Dierdre Sullivan, Explanatory Essay help

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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):

  1. What advice did the father give his daughter? What was her immediate reaction to it? What was her final conclusion?
  1. 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?
  1. 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

inevitable: unavoidable

calamity: disaster

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