End-of-life decision making
Enjoying the golden years
Including suicide and assisted suicide
Plus memorials and requiems
Narrative Medicine (or medical narrative) and illness memoir
Celebrating a Life
(do it while they are still living and can appreciate it!)
• Links to samples of good eulogies and video tributes
• Remembering Eleanor
Links to samples of good eulogies and video tributes
I shall include here just plain lovely pieces about people who have died. Sometimes we just need an example to show us how to get started.
Alan Berliner's eulogy for his father, Oscar Berliner
Arlene Friedman Shepherd
(the secretary who became president of Doubleday, among other things), one of many tributes with photos on The Lives They Loved
(photographs of people who died during 2012, with entries from readers of the NY Times Magazine)
Fidel Castro's eulogy for Che Guevara
Cher's eulogy for Sonny Bono
Churchill's Eulogy in Commons for the Late President (F.D.) Roosevelt
Dancing for eternity
( (Nancy Heifferon's farewell to the brother whose last years were brightened by dancing)
Dust Is Gone Above the Bar, but a Legend Still Dangles
(Dan Barry, NY Times, 4-6-11). Above the bar in McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan's East Village hang two dozen "dust-cocooned wishbones dangling on an old gas lamp above the storied bar counter," hung there by doughboys going off to war in World War I (and some later wars) "as wishful symbols of a safe return from the Great War. The bones left dangling came to represent those who never came back." Lovely story.
Days with My Father
(Phillip Toledanos' remarkable photo-essay -- click toward the bottom of each photo to advance to the next page)
Elegy for the brilliant poet Liam Rector
, executive director of the Fallen World--master administrator, showman, rigorous wild child and splendid hipster (David Gates, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, 9-30-07)
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Eulogies at the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
Eulogy for Steve Irwin by Russell Crowe
(posted on Heartfelt Eulogies.com)
Eulogy for Sir Edmund Hillary by Helen Clark
"However we may have differed with him—or with each other about him and his value as a man—let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now.
Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man—but a seed—which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us.
And we will know him then for what he was and is—a prince—our own black shining prince!—who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so."
~ from Eulogy for Malcolm X
by Ossie Davis (World History Archives)
Famous and Memorable Eulogies and Tributes
(Public Speaking Tips)
Farewells to buildings
. Flowers in the Hospital
(Pauline W. Chen, Doctor and Patient blog, NY Times 5-3-12). To honor the long history of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston, as well as its patients and employees, Brooklyn-based artist Anna Schuleit created an extraordinary art installation in the original buildings, which closed in November 2003. You can see the amazing photos of this unusual floral tribute here
--in which 28,000 pots of flowers filled the spaces once occupied by patients and hospital employees.
For Habeas Corpus
, another amazing installation, Anna Schuleit extensively wired the hallways and rooms of the abandoned historic building Northampton State Hospital to make it function briefly as a musical instrument. From a Newsweek article: "Harmonia Mundi's glorious recording of Bach's 'Magnificat' poured out of the shattered windowpanes for 28 minutes while men, women, children and dogs silently snaked around the labyrinthine buildings.... Tattered curtains fluttered in the chilled breeze, bare trees and gray November skies underscored the desolation of lives past. Anna Schuleit had made a building sing." Click here to see photos of the installation
Clay Felker: Hundreds Honor a Life Known for Magazine Innovation
(Eric Konigsberg, New York Times 9-23-08)
Gene Patterson to Jack Nelson: Save Us a Desk Up There in That Celestial Newsroom
(Julie Moos, Poynter, 11-20-09)
"he is made one with nature"
tribute on Flickr to naturalist John L. Tveten (Mim Eisenberg)
How To Write a Eulogy or Remembrance Speech
(Angela Morrow, RN, About.com, 11-23-10)
A life without left turns
(Michael Gartner, USA Today, 6-15-06)
In memory of John Jerome
(1932-2002, two obituaries and an appreciation)
(Washington Post end-of-year series, this one focused on "Kayla Wenger, 12, lived life in ‘fast forward’ as she battled brain cancer"
The Lives They Loved
(year-end special of the New York Times Magazine, in which readers submit a photo of someone who died during the year and tell a story to go with it). This is for 2012, for which I submitted this story about Arlene Friedman Shepherd
(with my daughter)
Losing my mom — and finding her in my sisters
(Diane Mapes, MSNBC, 5-10-09)
Keith Olbermann says goodbye to mom
, telling how his baseball fan mother, Marie, gained baseball fame after getting beaned square on the bridge of her nose by an overthrow from second by Chuck Knoblauch (Newsday.com videoblog, 4-7-09)
A Perfect Eulogy
(Shanthi Sekaran's "imperfect eulogy" for Elmer Morrissey, posted by Meghan Ward)
The promise I had to keep: to wear a dress at my fallen friend's funeral
(Great photo, and moving testimony to the British Army's loss of life in Afghanistan, Mark Townsend, The Observer, 9-19-09). "Wriggling into the £4.99 Primark dress, Barry Delaney never paused to consider what others might think. He and his best pal Kevin Elliott had made a pact and that was all that mattered. Three years ago, they had agreed that Delaney would wear a dress – the brighter, the better – if Elliott was killed in a action."
Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., on American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches)
Remembering Kay Davies
(Brian Jay Jones)
Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina
, edited by Horst Faas and Tim Page, to honor the brave photographers who risked their lives to capture the reality of that war. See remarks by David Halberstam
on "the Most Relentless of Forces, the Power of Memory" (Healing Combat Trauma site)
The Secret Life of a Society Maven
(Alan Feuer, NY Times, 4-21-12). They shared first and last names, and became friends. But only when one Alan Feuer died did the other Alan Feuer discover the truth — the other Alan Feuer had invented his identity and made himself at home at the ball.
Well Chosen Words: How to Write a Eulogy
(free PDF file from Cooperative Funeralcare)
What should (can) I say at a memorial service?
(Sarah Wernick's wonderful memorial service is given as an example.)
What the tributes to Dave Brubeck missed
(John Blake, CNN, 12-22-12). Watch the video but especially read the story.
Emma Agnew — an unfinished life
Posted here by permission of Diane McCarthy
Please spare a moment to reflect on the fragility of life in the 21st century. One of my former technical communication students, who happened to be profoundly deaf, was brutally murdered about 11 days ago, on the outskirts of Christchurch, in the South Island of New Zealand. On Monday, her body was found concealed in a forest park, but the police have arrested the alleged offender swiftly, as they had good intelligence about him.
Emma was a fantastic communicator, and used to sign cheekily to her hearing friends, Matt and Andy, right under my nose, as I rambled on about documentation. The local deaf community have used the metaphor of a butterfly to describe her, as butterflies are also deaf. She was beautiful, lit up a room when she entered it, and was fiercely independent. If you google her name, you can read more about this tragic event. Her full potential will never be realised, but the image I have of her in my mind is indelible.
Kia ora. Kia kaha. No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
Be of good heart and spirit. Be strong. Greetings to you all. ( Maori translation)
~ Diane McCarthy
Eleanor McNees (1920-2004)
Selections from her life story, read at a graveside service, April 2004:
When Eleanor was about eight and her sister Gene was ten, she and Gene borrowed the Model T of the handyman, Ray North (who helped during the harvest [in Dighton, Kansas]). One day Ray tossed his keys on the table as he went out to the fields to work in the morning and said “You can drive the car if you need to,” probably to Estelene, who was eighteen. But Gene and Eleanor heard him say that and took his car for a spin that day, Eleanor working the steering wheel and Gene working the foot pedals. “We just didn’t drive over on the road, where they could see us,” said Eleanor. “We went across the alfalfa field, and then we went up and down the hill a few times. There was a creek that would flood the pasture in the bottomland when we had a lot of rain. We drove across the creek and never got stuck. Going across the creek was the only way to get over there. Dad asked Estelene that night, ‘How come you went up and down the hill so many times?’ thinking it was Estelene driving the car, and Estelene said ‘I didn’t.’ But he didn’t say nothing; he just laughed." ...
In 1947, with the war two years over, Glenn [her husband], Albert, Harold, Robert, occasionally Paul, and anybody else who was willing to help built Glenn and Eleanor a 20 x 20 foot house at 1630 West 215th Street, in the Shoestring Strip, the long strip of land that connects Los Angeles to its harbor (mailing address: Torrance). “Albert was there every day, except Sunday. He wouldn’t work on Sunday.”
"Glenn found the lot and decided that it was big enough to build a house on," recalled Eleanor recently. "Most lots were 40-foot lots; that lot was 175 feet long. He decided that was the one we needed, so he said, ‘Here’s the money. Get it.’ We didn’t even have enough to buy a sack of nails, but by the time we got it built it cost us $2,200. The property was $2,500. And then I’d have to go shopping to find nails because not everybody had them and some places had them but you could only get half a pound or something. Then they told us we had to build a garage and I had to go down to court to get a release for that because we didn’t have enough money to build a garage. We had a foundation for it and that was it. We had a metal shower in the bathroom—no bathtub. Harold McNees, who was also building a home, hired more help than we did. We didn’t have any money.” The house was finished in time for Pat's new little brother, Steve, to have a home. It was the first real home Glenn and Eleanor had -- until 1947, they'd moved with his jobs as an ironworker.
There was one closet, with room enough for everyone to hang three pieces of clothing. There was one chest of drawers, with a drawer for everyone. There was an open field next to the house, full of eucalyptus trees, which Eleanor hated and which were eventually all cut down. There was a huge front yard, which the many, many neighborhood children used for a football field....
When Pat was a teenager, Eleanor decided it was time to go to college, so she could get a good job. She took enough courses to get a job at the Bank of America, where she and Norma Hancock worked out a system: If a bank robber entered the bank where they both worked, at 110th and Main in Los Angeles, they worked out a way where both give the signal that the bank was being robbed -- and they would both collect $25.
Eleanor worked her last day at the Bank of America on February 28, 1977. She had put in 20 years and that was enough. Then began what Eleanor would recall as the happiest time of her life, when she and Glenn had the time and could afford to travel all over the country — sometimes alone, sometimes with Gene and Clint, often with Maybelle, once with Maybelle and Lloyd. Glenn took up golf and Eleanor crocheted and began reading romance novels (which she and Pauline shared, writing their names inside after they finished one, so they would know they had read it, and writing notes like “good” or “too much sex/cussing”). Eleanor started a system of note cards on which she wrote the names of authors and the books she’d read, so she wouldn’t accidentally read one twice without knowing it. After Glenn died, in 1990, she learned to play bridge and played regularly with Darleen Elliott and another couple along Dike Road (in Mohave Valley, on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, where they’d moved)....
After one more fall, which made her afraid of falling, Eleanor packed up a few things and went to stay with Steve and Sue in Salt Lake City, a stay that lasted three years. Sitting in the living room, watching CNN, she crocheted a few hundred stylish hats, gathering thank you notes and reading and re-reading them (her prize: a photo and a handwritten thank-you note from her favorite writer, Mary Higgins Clark, after her children mailed the novelist a hat and some potholders).
A smoker most of her life, she spent her last year hooked up to an oxygen tank by a fifty-foot line that she cursed daily, as she made her way up and down their hallway. Full of “piss and vinegar” till the end, she took great pleasure in announcing one day, as Steve returned home from work, that Martha Stewart had been convicted. She hated the woman for being snooty and for using cheap labor in China to make her towels, which were crummy and hardly fit to crochet an end-piece for.
After several months of winning the friendship of the wonderful Hearts for Hospice workers who came to help Steve and Sue with her care, and with one final visit from her nephew Dennis just before she began fading away, she died quietly and peacefully on April 5, 2004, with Steve and Sue and Pat holding her hands and telling her goodbye.
She was smart, thin, and good-looking. She was a hard worker, a fierce and dedicated housekeeper (you could eat from her floors), a fighter, a troublemaker, and queen of the nags. She had a great sense of humor, a gift for making and hanging on to friends and for identifying and harassing enemies, and a wonderful sense of hospitality. You always had a place to sleep at Eleanor’s and if you needed something to wear she would make it for you. She hated cooking, but she baked good custard and banana cream pies and, until she rightfully put us all on a diet, made great homemade ice cream. She was a good and loyal friend, sister, daughter, mother, aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
The eulogy is the moment at which the deceased is brought close,
and a time when he or she steps away.
It is at once a greeting and a letting go.
~ Andrew Morton
Mom — hardworking, sassy, and full of surprises
Eleanor in the 1930s. She had a gift for making and hanging on to friends and for identifying and harassing enemies...
"And they die an equal death -- the idler and the man of mighty deeds."
~ Homer, in The Iliad
Music for Funerals and Memorial Services
. Selecting and playing music appropriate to the life of the person being mourned is one of the best ways to celebrate their life. This page (with links to samples) should help you find something appropriate.