Thursday, November 8, 2007


It's a real "step up to the plate" situation. You may be asked, you may think you should, you may see that nobody else is going to and (heaven forbid) the clergy person is going to do it based on his ten minute family interview.

I have heard it said there are people who would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy, so bad is their "stage fright". I tend to challenge such self-judgmental and limiting statements, but assuming you could POSSIBLY do it, and are considering whether you should, you can do it, you should do it, you MUST do it. If you had a close relationship with the deceased, it will be one of the greatest gifts to them, but more than that, it's a gift to yourself.

Look at it this way.....when you do it, you will never forget that you did it. In fact, you will be proud, especially when you really nail it. I won't say I nailed it every time, but I've done seven eulogies, for my Mom, my father-in law, his father in-law, my aunt Anna, Felicia's Aunt Tybie, and twice for clients who had no family and I had arranged the funeral (and was asked "to say a few words"). They are not so hard to write.....once you get started. Most of your "audience" knows the person you are talking about, or knows something about them, or at the very least are there out of respect to someone, and they want to know more. I don't know about you, but when I go to a funeral for a person I did not know (out of respect and caring for a person I DO know), I want to hear a eulogy that tells it right.

Here are a few tips (these may really help you some day):

1. Spend some time thinking and writing. Grief will hit you during the process, but you will gain strength from the effort.

2. Read it out loud, or at least read it to yourself. You will know where the emotional parts are, and you will be ready. You can stop if you need to, and you will know it's fine to do that.

3. At my Mom's funeral I gave an extra copy to the Cantor who was officiating, and told him if I couldn't do it, he should read it. He said OK, but he knew it would not be necessary.

4. If you have people close to you, tell them you are writing it, and ask them for some thoughts.

5. When you read it, you don't have to say how hard it is...everyone knows. If you delay in starting due to emotion, this makes the eulogy better.

6. Print a few extras, make sure to save it on the computer.

I previously posted my Mom's eulogy

Here is the one I read at my Aunt Anna's funeral.......

Eulogy for Anna Sender

A eulogy can only be words, and it is a challenge to find words sufficient for the task. But I have a great helper. And that is the knowledge that I have something in common with everyone here. We all experienced this phenomenal, unique, and unforgettable person. I always felt there was something extra and special about Anna, a certain spirit and magnetism. And is it possible that it grew over time? Yes, I believe it did.

Even though most people here know Anna’s family background, I want to talk a little about it because it illustrates something about growth and change. Anna is a product of a different time, you could even say a different part of history. Yet, have you ever encountered a more modern person? We all have encountered people who seemed to be rooted in another time, or stuck in a different era. But through her life, Anna drew from all of her experiences, triumphant and tragic, and kept moving forward, kept living life. Going back to the beginning, Anna’s parents came to this country from Russia around the turn of the century. Her father died when she was about 8 years old. Her mother lived in this country for many years, and spoke only Yiddish (This did not hinder Anna’s English conversational skills). Anna was the sixth of seven children. The oldest child was a daughter, Fannie, who died at the age of 17, while serving as a nurse in WW I. Next there were two sons, Philip and Arthur, and then three daughters, Rose, Betty, and then Anna, and then Manny. Anna was born around the end of World War I, and grew up during the 20's and the depression of the 30's. She did not have much formal education, but it is fair to say she made the most of the schooling she had.

She worked hard in various types of work, including many years in a hat factory.

Then her life took a change when she met and married Red. I’m not the most worldly person, but in my life I’ve never encountered a couple like this. They had a certain chemistry, maybe explosive chemistry, but a formula that worked. And whatever else one might say or think about it, it sure seemed right. It was many years before they had Michael, and growing up he was surely among the most wanted and cherished children ever. It remains difficult to talk about, but Michael was an extraordinary person, and Anna was extraordinarily proud of him, and proud of her little family.

Michael was 24 when he died in 1982 (he’d have been 44 now), and at that time Red had already started a horrible decline from Alzheimer’s. How many people would have been beaten, right then and there? Or shuffled through the rest of their life? Or complained about their pain? For the rest of HER life, Anna showed a resiliency that we all marveled at. And we all learned from her. You could not leave a conversation with Anna and not feel better. You had to be inspired, you had to think about your own problems (whatever they might be), and know that you could move forward. Anna did not teach you these things by preaching, or telling, but by living. And not just living, but living with energy, excitement and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious you know, and spreading it is a good thing.

Anna was a great talker, and a great story-teller, but she also had one of most important attributes of a conversationalist, she was a great listener. And she cared about what you said, and absorbed it. When you were having a conversation with her, it was the most important conversation on Earth. And it didn’t matter that five minutes later she was going to have the most important conversation on Earth with someone else. It did not diminish yours.

A number of years ago Anna moved to Florida. During that time she not only made many friends, was involved in many activities, but also took classes and college courses, and traveled extensively. All these things were done at full speed and with total involvement. When she got sick and declined so rapidly, it was like she lived 83 years at100 miles per hour and then ran out of gas. Many of us saw her just a few weeks ago, and she was dancing and laughing and talking as always. We can have that memory, and years of other memories to hold on to. I can only say to my father and to Joan, who were with Anna in her final days, that the power of Anna’s life (and the happy times you spent with her) will last beyond the painful times. Her spirit touched us all and enriched every one of us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is nothing a person can do that is more rewarding than giving a eulogy. Simply said, it can be an emotional rollercoaster, but I assure you, the ride is one that you and those who hear it will ever forget. Eulogizing a person is the highest form of respect and love one can offer a friend, a parent, or a child. I consider the ones I have given, love notes to the people whom I adored in life. I have a son who is riddled with problems, mental and physical. He will in all likelihood die before us, his parents. That is the eulogy I dread writing. I will do it because I will not allow his soul to leave the earth without others knowing the innate goodness and kindness he once possessed