The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Joy in the Eulogy

When a loved one passes away, someone is tasked with writing a eulogy. It is the writer's job to remind grieving family members and friends how blessed they were to have that person with them (we won't even delve into the dead person who wasn't any sort of blessing ... I'm praying I don't have to write a eulogy for such an individual ... ever!).  For me, this has happened twice within less than a year's time. In each case, the person who has passed has been a beloved, close family member. That makes each of these first eulogies special, very special, and very serious undertakings. And yet, I've discovered the truth about the joy in the process.

In seminary, they teach you how to work with a family to prepare a eulogy. You meet with the grieving family, you sit down with them calm and relaxed as you can, and you encourage them to tell you stories about the departed loved one's life. At first there may be some hesitation, some awkward pauses, shuddering breaths ... and you wait, silently, patiently, as each individual gathers herself or himself for the endeavor. It's worth the wait. Because, then the stories begin to flow. First it's a trickle, then its a stream, and finally a torrent of memories feeding off of each other, sparking new memories around the room, and before long eyes are glittering and the family is startled to hear themselves laughing as they celebrate the life of the person so recently lost. That person is drawn closer through the warm memories and shared laughter. It is a wonderful thing to be able to spark, to watch develop, and to take notes on as you listen ... so that later you can get a fraction of that down on paper if you are the pastor tasked with the eulogy rather than a family member. Me, of course, I'm in the unique position of being both pastor and family member.

Last night, I called my brother and we shared. His wife joined in. Afterwards my wife and daughter added their recollections. I took a page and a half of very shorthand notes (I didn't need much more than one or two word reminders to get the memories flowing). Together we laughed, shared, and drew closer. Together we reminded ourselves in our grief just how blessed we were to have this wonderful person in our lives for so very many years and all this individual taught us ... and we were then and remain now grateful. There's a lot of joy to be had in that conversation, in that task of calling the departed person back with story, and being the privileged one who gets to take it all down.

For another form of joy, a more aural form, see:

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