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Old 01-12-2005, 09:54 PM   #1 (permalink)
Writing and presenting a eulogy to someone before they die.. Why not?

I recently attended the service for the death of a friend's father. I didn't know him, but she wanted me to be there and stand with her as she read the eulogy, because alone she didn't think she would be able to. When the time came, she did a great job, read the entire thing on her own, and I didn't have to do anything more than hold her hand as she read what she wrote to those in attendance.

I am really intrigued by eulogies. Personally, I am not the kind of person that is overly emotional around my parents. They do a ton for me, and I thank them, but I'm pretty sure they have no idea how much they have bettered my life, through actions and also being there for me, always.

In a way this frustrates me, because it seems that people are remembered and praised through eulogies when it's too late. If I had to write a eulogy for either of my parents right now, I would have a ton of experiences to draw from, and I'm confident I could do a superb job writing about their greatness as people, parents, and friends. However, I am not one to go up to them and tell them, and thus it seems that they will never find out how great they were until they die; and even then it will be too late, as they won't be hearing the eulogies being read.

As I stood there next to my friend as she read recountments of her experiences with her dad and what a great guy he seemed to be, it saddened me that people go through life taking things for granted and then they are gone, only then to be fully thanked, praised, and respected for their contributions. I am not implying my friend was ungrateful or that she didn't love her dad. In fact, that wasn't the case at all, she loved him very much, and grieved for his loss greatly. Instead, I am just commenting on the notion that I (and maybe others) go through life taking things for granted, and then when the people close to them die, they then write out eulogies that express feelings that were possibly never expressed in life.

For instance, and to bring this back towards me, if one of my parents died tomorrow, and I were to write a eulogy, that eulogy would cover a ton of things I've never spoken to my parents about. The good memories I have and experiences I've shared with them throughout life were enjoyable, but I am not "outgoing" emotionally with my parents, and thus I don't think they have any idea I'm as appreciative as I am of situations I've spent with them throughout life.

However, if I were to write a eulogy for them, it would be filled with recountments of these experiences and how they resulted in my life being so much better because of them.

This made me wonder if anyone has ever written a eulogy (or similiar document with another name) for a loved one before they died? How would something like this be accepted?

Understandably, when someone dies the focus is almost always on the good they did, but I don't think that necessarily means that one has to wait until death to fully express their appreciation for the goodness they experienced in life through the actions of the deceased.

So how can it be done? I am not sure a discussion would work as well, because the material covered is quite a lot, and I think (for me personally) something written would be ideal. I honestly think a eulogy written and presented to someone before they are dead (and I mean well before, not when they are dying), would be a great way of letting someone know just how much they mean to me (or you, or anyone).

Lastly, if one of my parents were to die tomorrow, and I were to write a eulogy, I know that the first thought I would have after reading it would be, "Shit, they are gone, and I am only thanking them and expressing how much they've meant to me now; and now is too late."

So the obvious response is, "Well, then tell them now." Which is fine, and a good suggestion, but how? I know I am not the type to go up to them and start a discussion that thanks them for everything, and I think such a discussion would seem weak and affected because it's just so much material. Something written would work, a eulogy would work, but would it?
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Old 01-12-2005, 10:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Write them each a letter, and tell them directly what you are feeling and why. You don't have to mail it...just hand it to them. A eulogy would work, but I prefer the more personal approach.
Quiet, mild-mannered souls might just turn out to be roaring lions of two-fisted cool.
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Old 01-12-2005, 10:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: My own little world (also Canada)
I've had a few eulogical (fake word?) moments with my parents already, and while they're tremendously hard to accomplish, it also feels great to completely cut through the bullshit everyone once in a while. Nothing avoided, nothing ignored, just straight up back-and-forth. I'm sure if you talk to them enough and it's not all small talk that opportunities will arise. I personally hate the idea of eulogies, and if I'm asked to do one (which I most likely will be), I'm not quite sure what I'll do. It will probably not be what everyone would expect, and possibly not what most people want either.
"Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions." - Albert Einstein

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." - Plato
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Old 01-12-2005, 11:20 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Chicago, IL
I think that's a really wonderful idea. I like Grancey's suggestion of a letter. That way you can fully express all your feelings and not have to worry about it coming out wrong or getting interrupted or anything like that. I'm sure it would really make them feel wonderful to get something like that from you.
"The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides"
-Carl Sagan
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Old 01-12-2005, 11:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
Location: Brisbane, Australia
I had a good friend of mine die last year, and his parents asked me to write a eulogy for him. Joel and I were best friends in high school, nothing could keep us apart. Since we left high school though (I was a year older than him) we saw less and less of each other as we went our seperated ways. He moved interstate to study Medicine. When I heard of his death I was heartbroken, but when asked to write a euolgy and say it at his funeral, I was relieved but again sad. All the things that I wrote about him, I realised that I had never told him to his face......
I think your idea is a good one......I wish I had told Joel half the things that I wrote about and I wish I could have told him what he meant to me.

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Old 01-12-2005, 11:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: Dallas, TX
I wrote my father's eulogy before he passed away last May. We knew the cancer was going to kill him. so we both sat down and wrote it together. Of all the things I've written, Of all the things I've done, Of all the things I will ever do, that was the most heart wrenching, stomach turning experience of my life. I still can't look at my journal entries. (Which a few members had read them, knows that it was my life line back then)

But I made a discovery. The eulogy isn't just to remember the deceased. It's to help the ones who were left behind not only honor them but help mourn them as well. And although it was very painful, I would do it again. It's like the last goodbye. The perfect ending to a well told story that both of you helped write.

So, my advice to you. Is tell them now. tell them everything that's on your mind. few people are as lucky as me to have an opportunity that kind of talk. Do it now. even if your not the type. Become the type. If not for them. for yourself.
What's the difference between congress and a penitentiary?
One is filled with tax evaders, blackmailers and threats to society.
The other is for housing prisoners.
~~David Letterman
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Old 01-13-2005, 12:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: California
As someone who has lost both parents, I can say that both you and they would benefit enormously from such an act. If they died before you had a chance to say what you felt, you'd suffer. And they deserve to know how you feel.

I'd suggest not putting it in terms of an actual eulogy though - that might come across as a bit morbid and alarming. Simply write each one of them a letter and give it to them, and maybe you can tell them how you got the inspiration when you do. They will probably treasure it for the rest of their lives, and it could really change your relationships in a powerful way. I was going to say that maybe you could give them the letters as a birthday gift (or maybe on your birthday), but of course there's no guarantee they'll still be around then, so just do it now while you're inspired.

I sent my mother flowers on my birthday, and now that she's gone I'm so glad I did!
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Old 01-13-2005, 01:11 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: Oregon
Oh God...I lost my grandfather this last summer, and he's the first person I've lost that was so close to me. Growing up I wanted to be just like him and did everything just as he did it. He caught chicken pox after a summer full of heart woes, so we knew he was not going to survive the chicken pox. So I made the five hour drive to meet up with my father and brother and go in and see him. It was the single hardest thing I've ever done to sit there and tell him how much he meant to me, and what a great grandfather he had been. He had already lost the ability to speak and couldn't say anything in return, but I could tell by looking in his eyes that he understood and loved me too. I cried more than I have ever cried in my life. But to tell him how much I cared...it meant the world. He died two days later in his sleep.

I only hope I can do the same with both of my parents before the time comes. In our family, it's very hard...we're very pragmatic about death and allow a lot of things to go unspoken because we assume they don't need to be said, they're just implicitly understood. But I know I need to say them at some point. I'm working up to it.
If I am not better, at least I am different. --Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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Old 01-13-2005, 05:30 AM   #9 (permalink)
Moderator Emeritus
Location: Chicago
When my best friend of more than 30 years was killed on 9/11, his family had a memorial service a short time later, and asked a few of his friends to speak at the service.

Writing that eulogy was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, because it was impossible to put down 30 years of affection, friendship, love, memories into just 10 minutes.

People like my friend came along but once in a lifetime, his death was not something planned for, heck, months after his death, things we had planned to do were still being cancelled. But honestly, I didn't need to tell him how I felt, he knew. He didn't need to tell me how he felt about me, I knew. Actions, in life, speak a lot louder than words, I'd much rather have my friends show me they care, rather than tell me.

I don't think that we need to tell people what they mean to us, because it's just talk, and talk is cheap, it's what we don't say, what we show people, that means a lot more.
Free your heart from hatred. Free your mind from worries. Live simply. Give more. Expect less.
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