This week I attended a funeral mass for a friend’s father. When it came time for the eulogy, one of his 5 daughters walked up to the altar, looked out over the congregation, and told us about her dad.
One of my biggest regrets is not giving the eulogy at my mother’s funeral. I remember going back to my hotel room the afternoon she died and thinking I should do this, that I should sit down right then in my darkened room and get to work, that I should write something meaningful and true and loving, that I should gather some courage and stand up there on the day of and tell a few stories about my mom, about her life. But I didn’t. Instead, I spent the afternoon writing and rewriting thank you letters to her doctors and nurses and hospice workers, looking up their addresses and the correct spellings of their names, driving frantically around town with a map, hand-delivering every stuffed white envelope. When the day of the funeral arrived, I sat in the pew with the smallest scrap of paper folded and crumpled in my hands, some common verse I’d plucked from the Bible at the last moment, a verse that that took me about 20 seconds to read, a verse that said nothing at all.
I’ve written countless things since: essays and stories and emails and to-do lists and book chapters; I’ve written letters of complaint; I’ve written school papers where I didn’t even believe my own thesis statement; I’ve helped close friends write eulogies and anniversary speeches for their parents. And yet.
I’m reminded of this line at the end of Strayed’s “Tiny Beautiful Things”: You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
Have you ever written a eulogy, or wish you had?