When you have young kids, you plan their birthday parties, organize grill-outs with neighbors, throw baby showers and surprise thirtieth birthday parties for your best friends and ten year anniversary parties for your favorite couples.
And the streamers fly and the laughter rings out and the time goes by. And then the children grow up and move on. And things begin to change. The house gets quiet and the tumult simmers down. There is more behind you than ahead.
I realized this one day when I came home from attending the third funeral in less than a month. Fresh in my mind was the grief, the logistics of death, and the details guiding the process. Surely there was room for some originality and humor.
“Okay,” I said to my husband, in a matter of fact tone, “It’s time to start a funeral file of personal preferences.”
“You’re morbid,” he accused me.
“No, I’m not, “I retorted hotly, “I’m pragmatic. And what better time to start a file on scary subjects than Halloween?”
Apparently, I’m not alone in my thinking. Tombstones and memorials are reflecting a decided shift in emphasis to the personal. David Quiring, a monument maker in Seattle says, “People resist being just another brick in the wall. They really want to preserve their uniqueness.”
People who want to be memorialized with pizzazz and verve are picking their own tombstone inscriptions. Example: Here lies Pearl. A helluva girl.
And they are picking their own tombstone design. Examples: Cut-out electrical guitars, teddy bears, and favorite flowers.
One couple commissioned a life-size sculpture of a Mercedes Benz. The thirty-six ton work cost more than $250,000 and took two years to make. A family commissioned a tablet in the image of a $100 bill and had the dead man’s name inscribed where Ben Franklin’s picture should be.
Actually, the business of making highly personalized gravestones has been around for decades and decades – providing a lasting testimonial of a life uniquely lived. And doing a few other things besides.
Like a little marketing:
Here lies Jane Smith
Wife of Thomas Smith
This monument erected by her husband
as a tribute
to her memory
Monuments of this style
are 250 dollars
Sacred to the memory
of Jared Bates
His widow, age 24,
lives at 7 Elm Street
has every qualification
for a good wife
to be comforted
And joke making:
Here lies a father of 29
there would have been more
but he didn’t have time
And name calling:
On a miser:
and poorly died
and no one cried.
And revenge seeking:
here lies the body
of Mary Ford
we hope her soul
is with the Lord
but if for hell
she’s changed this life
better live there
than as J. Ford’s wife
If tombstones are what descendants see forever, eulogies are what friends, family and loved ones hear as your last statement of values, attitude, philosophy of life, and personal and professional experiences. Of Milestones reached. And goals attained.
You can have a loved one or close friend deal with the obvious details one usually puts in a eulogy: brief chronological outline of key life events such as graduating from college, getting married, having children and grandchildren, starting a business, honors accrued, milestones reached and goals attained. And of course a few favorite memories of you and the speaker. Experts in funeral planning suggest 98% of the eulogy should be about the life of the deceased and 2% on death and end of life details. Makes sense. Obviously that can’t be something you write about – you’ll already have passed on!!!!!
But, think about this, many of us are in the autumn of our lives and we are growing more reflective as each season passes. And more conscious of the legacy we will be leaving our loved ones. How best to guarantee our voice gets heard? You got it. LET US COMPOSE OUR OWN EULOGY. PRE-ARRANGE FOR SOMEONE TO READ IT AT OUR FUNERAL, ALONG WITH THE MORE TRADITIONAL TRIBUTE OR IN PLACE OF IT.
Haul out the old typewrite and begin to write your eulogy. What do you include? Okay, maybe it’s not the time to unleash your inner weirdness or go off on a self-tooting, totally immodest tribute, but humor, pathos, and tales of struggle and triumph are entirely permissible (at least by me!).
a lesson learned
something you were passionate about
an accomplishment you want to be remembered by
an experience that defined you
a philosophy you adhered to
a person you greatly admired and why
a piece of advice for the younger generation
I first thought about writing my own eulogy when my social media guy convinced me to hire a professional to write my bio. It had all the “necessary” information, but none of what made Iris “Iris.”
- You can’t control how and when you die but you can control how you will be remembered. Don’t leave it to someone else to copy, paste and delete.
- It’s your last chance to say what you want to say to a room full of people gathered together to bid you farewell, mourn your passing and celebrate your life.
I’m seriously considering gathering a group of my friends together – plying them with an endless supply of Merlot – and encouraging them to take a stab at penning their own eulogy. In fact, I’m putting it on my ever-growing bucket list. Right after I master the art of staying balanced on my damn bike so I don’t become our county’s latest bicycle fatality.
Until then, Happy Halloween, Keep Preserving Your Bloom and please send me a sample of what you banged out on the old Underwood.