“Alex: I was wondering if you have any advice on writing a eulogy, especially for someone you were very close to?
I’m struggling with how I feel and what to write. I don’t want to write a ‘shopping list’ of memories and great qualities. Could you help, please?” –Jo
First of all, Jo … I hope that you’re OK. I’m sending you a full-body hug.
To be honest, I’ve never written a eulogy before. Not a formal one, anyway.
I can say this, though:
When I think about people I’ve loved, who are no longer here, I generally don’t think about their “accomplishments” or “accolades.”
I remember what they taught me — and how they made me feel.
I remember how Uncle Adam made me feel like it was OK to be completely ridiculous and silly, in public — without caring what other people might think.
Adam had Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable physical tics and outbursts. One of his tics was to yell curse words. We made a deal — when I was about six years old — then whenever he said “shit!” in public, then I could say it, too. We’d do it together, bellowing out of the open windows in his car, and laugh hysterically. We were quite the pair.
I remember how Great-Aunt Mimi taught me that you can grow old — really, really old — but still keep a young, playful heart.
Mimi lived in her own home — and drove her own car — well into her nineties. She swam every day, played card games, and met friends at her favorite Jewish deli (she always got a toasted sesame bagel, sliced into thirds, instead of in half. More surface area for jam, that way.) When she died, she was ready. She had lived well, and had no regrets.
I remember how Grandma Helen always made me feel welcome in her home, and taught me the meaning of “hospitality.”
Helen had a special fold-out cot and a sleeping bag with my favorite canine cartoon characters — the Pound Puppies. She kept Kraft American cheese singles in the fridge (because I loved them) and chilled the salad plates before dinner (because “that’s just how it’s done.”) My parents jokingly call me “the Martha Stewart of the family,” and looking back, I’m sure I inherited my love of simple domestic pleasures … from her.
I’ll bet you remember a lot of things about the person you lost, too.
You say that you don’t want to “write a ‘shopping list’ of memories and great qualities,” and that’s understandable.
Instead of making a list, perhaps you can share just one story.
A story about what that person taught you — and how they made you feel.
“_____________ was the kind of person who always made you feel _____________.
_____________ taught me how to _____________, and taught me the true meaning of _____________.
(As a perfect example: I’ll never forget that one time that we _____________.)
Because of them, my life is richer. Because of them, I know that _____________ is what really matters.”
I’ll leave you with this brilliant reminder, from a woman who is deeply missed by so many:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Good luck, Jo.
When you speak from the heart, you really can’t go wrong.
I know that whatever you choose to say … will be just right.