The Final Word on Eulogies

Two and a half years ago, I struggled for a day and a half to write a eulogy for my father.  I poured my heart and soul into those words, and even though I am pleased with what I produced, I feel there was so much more that could have been said.  I pressed myself to try and capture the essence of the man that was my dad.  I set out to write something as thoughtful, touching and witty as Bob Costas’ eulogy for Mickey Mantle.  After all, this was my dad and he never did anything half-assed.  There was no way in hell I was going to half-ass his eulogy.

As it turns out, I have received nothing but compliments about what I wrote.  I’ve had grown men tell me how much they related to the words I spoke, all the while fighting the tears welling up in their eyes.  I’ve had friends call me bawling because they had just read the touching memorial to my father. My eulogy to my dad has been praised by family, friends and strangers alike, and I look back and smile knowing my last gift to him was so well received.

Too bad I didn’t take the time to tell him all of that before he passed away.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out the word eulogy is not necessarily associated with death.  The word is derived from two Greek words, the first meaning good or well and the second meaning word, phrase, or speech.  All this time I expected the meaning to be something dark or sad.  Instead, it is something we should all do everyday – sing the praises of the people we know and love.

Eulogies of the living, although rare, are not wholly uncommon.  We see them whenever someone wins a lifetime achievement award or when someone is being inducted into a hall of fame.  Comedians have made an event out of eulogies, with one of the biggest honors being a roast at the Friar’s Club.  Still, we don’t hear these speeches and celebrations called eulogies, for everyone knows that eulogy is a four letter word.

How would you feel if someone came up to you and said, “Hey, buddy.  Would you mind if I write your eulogy and publish it in the local paper tomorrow?”?  You’d probably look at them as if they had two heads and try to decide which head you were going to punch first.  It would be insulting and shocking.  Yet that is the stigma with which the poor word has to exist.  Rather than being something positive, the pleasant gesture that is a eulogy is forever damned to be looked down on as something dire and to be avoided.

I say no more.  I declare that going forward we all should embrace the concept that is a eulogy and celebrate the word by celebrating the people we know and love.  Break out the pencils and laptops.  Scribble on napkins and notepads.  Make the time to write something good and well about a person in your life.  Tell them something positive about them and how much you appreciate knowing them and having them in your life.  Seize the opportunities that present themselves to give someone a shout out, a thumbs-up or an emotional high-five.  Eulogies should be about the here and now.  They should tell the world how wonderful someone you know is.

If we wait until someone is gone, those words will only fall upon deaf ears.

To read my eulogy to my dad, click here.

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