During the person’s lifetime, we get lost in the details. But when death strikes, we have the chance to study the kaleidoscope, the bigger picture, with utmost clarity. And at that point, we discover – a bit too late – the beautiful life led by the deceased – Levi Avtzon
When my friend Stan was in the hospital with pneumonia and began to realize he might not recover, he called me close and asked if I would deliver his eulogy. It was a difficult request to hear but it was also an honor. I was Stan’s sponsor and as such, I knew him better than most. In the too short six years I’d known him, we’d come to trust each other completely … something rare under any circumstances but especially so for two men in their sixties. Yesterday, under the shade of a sycamore tree in the park, I got to keep my promise to Stan in front of a small group of his family and friends.
In the last ten years, I’ve delivered three eulogies: for our friend, John; for my Dad; and now for Stan. I also wrote about my sister-in-law, Sandy, after her passing. No one likes delivering eulogies, at least as far as I know. But within the framework of grieving, speaking on behalf of a departed friend is always a truly spiritual experience, one that I carry warmly in my heart from that day onward, no matter how difficult is is at the time. But it also always leaves me with the same feelings … Why didn’t I see this person’s life in such perspective while they were alive? Why don’t we tell more of our friends how we feel about them while they are alive?
We need to tell each other’s stories. To each other. It is a shame if they are told only after we are gone. Delivering a Living Eulogy sounds like a good idea but really, how many people want to hear that? Instead, we can do it a little at a time. We can tell people when we appreciate something they do, not just, Thanks, but Thanks for the way that you always take the time to listen to your friends, even when you don’t feel like it. We can laugh together when they screw up and tell about the time we did something equally stupid. And we can cry with them in their darker moments and show them how we’ve felt exactly the same way in our own lives. Hopefully by the time they leave us, we’ve delivered a Living Eulogy, One Day at a Time. I was lucky with Stan … within the intimate space of sponsorship, I know I’d told him everything I said in his eulogy. We’d laughed together at his foibles and cried about his tragedies and smiled at his accomplishments. That makes me smile today.