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It’s Your Eulogy, Get it Write

Phyllis Humby's picture
Mon, 12/03/2012 - 16:22 -- Phyllis Humby

The first time I saw her was at a funeral.  She gave the eulogy.  That was two years ago.  The uniqueness of the tribute stayed with me.

When I began working on a series about obits, eulogies, and grieving, she was one of the first people I thought of interviewing.  Our discussion did not go at all the way I anticipated. 

We pre-plan our funerals right down to the service and music.  Some people are now preparing their own obituaries.  It makes sense that an interview for our eulogy would be part of the all-inclusive package.  I thought Audrey would agree.  She didn’t. 

Audrey Stringer is a vivacious, enthusiastic individual with an infectious sense of humour.  And to think, I worried about meeting her.

Are grief counsellors supposed to be this cheery?

As a counsellor, motivational speaker, and author, she has travelled from here to Timbuktu (actually from Alberta to Newfoundland), guiding people in how to cope with death and survive grief. 

Grief and loss did not draw me to Audrey.  Eulogies are what I wanted to discuss.  It was my impression that Audrey interviewed our mutual friend for his eulogy.  That, of course, got me thinking.  What a marvellous idea! 

We talk about closure for survivors but what about the person that is dying.  Don’t you think discussing accomplishments, passions, or even unfulfilled goals, would be appropriate at life’s end?  Now, that is closure.  

‘No, Phyllis,’ Audrey said, ‘eulogies need to be done by the survivors to facilitate the grieving process.  We cannot farm out the eulogy to a business.  In my opinion, it needs to be done by family and friends.’ 

I had struck a passionate nerve.  She lectured me on the way the traditional rites of death have evolved over the years.  Families now allow funeral homes to take over the formal procedures that only they had performed for loved ones.  Aha, my point exactly!
Since burial customs and convention have changed over the years, the notion of a eulogy business may not be far-fetched.  Audrey Stringer shudders at the thought.

As for the eulogy for her childhood friend, she confirmed he had approached her but insisted she had not interviewed him; rather she had spoken to each member of his family. 

In fact, she teasingly told him not to expect a print out of the accolade before he died.  However, she also promised her terminally ill friend that the eulogy would boast his good qualities.  She said they both laughed.  Another ‘Aha!’ moment for me.
Audrey glanced at her watch.  Realizing this meeting would never end without some sort of take on my idea of the pre-planned eulogy, she humoured me with a couple of suitable questions. 

‘What gifts are you leaving this world,’ Audrey suggested, and quickly pointed out that she meant the gifts of love.  I offered a question concerning their greatest inspiration in life, and added, ‘How about regrets, would that be appropriate?’  Sure, she countered.  She would also ask about their strengths.  Now she was coming around.

Audrey Stringer cautioned that the answers given by a person with no immediate threat of dying would be quite different from the responses given by someone on their deathbed.  People on their deathbeds have a totally different outlook and priorities change in a hurry.  Yes, she had a point there. 

Not able to let any length of time go by without silliness, I let my fiction writer brain take over and, with a cocked brow, suggested that they be asked if there are any secrets to reveal. 

I painted the picture of the mourners sliding forward on their chairs, craning their necks towards the podium, and after the ultimate disclosure, pandemonium breaking out. 

There I go; I just can’t be serious for one moment.  Then again, anything is possible in the ever-changing ritual of life − and death.
For information on Audrey Stringer’s workshops and speaking engagements contact her at astringofhope@ebtech.net    Her books, Get Over It – Surviving Grief to Live Again, and Scaling the Mountain of Grief are available locally at The Book keeper, and online at her website www.stringofhope.com

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