When my mother passed away April 2nd, 2016 it was devastating. At first, it felt I was on the wrong end of a very bad joke. An invisible fog seemed to constrict me as details of interstate flights, rental car information, packing lists, phone calls to loved ones, and planning took on surreal aspects I can only describe as numbing or draining. On top of it all, I had just days to write a eulogy for the woman who raised me and I’d never written a eulogy before.
But after a few hours of soul searching (supported by online advice) I came up with an outline. The next afternoon I managed a first draft. I wanted to celebrate my mother’s life and share special things about her from my perspective. I also wanted to remind people that her death wasn’t the end of our relationship, either, because I’ll continue to carry a part of her with me. So, I edited then cried, spent time with my sister, brother, stepfather, etc. Edited some more after reading it aloud. I even asked my sister to read mine, to learn if it passed muster.
Then the day of my mother’s service arrived. Sick at heart, all the faces of family and friends who joined us managed to soften the worst of it with their sympathetic eyes and kind words. I noticed something else too: services drive home cold facts. There was no denying the truth of my mother’s passing anymore. The unreal aspects became hyper-real.
When I took my turn to speak I realized that I wanted to add a few extemporaneous thoughts. I gave myself permission to do so, albeit briefly. Timing mattered to me. Giving myself time to share my bit, of course, but timing such that those who followed me had enough to share their pieces too. I also wished to time my eulogy so that the moment I completely fell back into crying, I was already in the process of sitting back down in the pew.
*If you are curious about what I said that day: Eulogy for my Mother
Over a year’s passed since then. Perhaps this candid post about my writing process may help you during your own time of grief.
Here are some parting thoughts to summarize:
Writing eulogies should take into consideration the relationship between the deceased and the presenter, with family members and/ or closest friends given more time at the podium than the rest of the attendees. Also, the purpose of most eulogies is to share something unique and poignant about the deceased so that the reality of his/her passing moves from shock to acceptance by each person in attendance. When we gather together and share our grief, we also share memories and stories which celebrate the life lived, a life which will continue to be remembered long after the service is over, and the most powerful stories are those from the heart. When it comes to timing a eulogy, aim between 3 and 7 minutes, and practice a few times before presenting to discover how and where to edit.