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My Mother's Eulogy

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Rabbi Sherre Hirsch: I want my mother's eulogy to be perfect. As a rabbi, I have given and heard a lot of eulogies. Some are stronger than others. Sometimes the speaker captures the true essence of a person. Other times they speak about themselves. They speak in superlatives, but not truth. They ramble and they repeat themselves. Knowing this, I am hyperaware of the type of eulogy I want to give.

woman writing her mothers eulogy

I have never eulogized a parent -- at my father's funeral, I decided not to speak. My brother did the talking. But this time, I know I want to say something. But what? I want to say everything.

Every day I find myself remembering something else from our forty years together. The time she surprised me and we flew to San Francisco for the day and we did not tell anyone, not even my father, that we were leaving. The time she was the middle school mom and drove my friends and I three hours to a track meet. The time she baked hundreds of cookies for the holiday of Purim to sell at the bake sale. So which detail is most important? Which will sum up all the things that I want to say?

My experiences with her are only a small window into her life. She is so much more. Do I talk about her generosity of spirit? Or that she has more friends than Facebook could handle on one profile? Do I mention that she worries obsessively? She can be controlling. She never likes to leave the house without her hair and makeup picture-perfect.

How do I capture her life? Her personality? Her passion? How do I capture her in the few minutes I have allotted without boring all the attendees?

Sometimes I try to sit and jot something down, but I stop myself before pen meets paper. Am I hastening her death? Is it kosher to write someone's eulogy before they have died? Is it morbid? Then I think of all the newspapers that publish a pre-written eulogy the day after the death of someone famous. I never blamed the newspaper for bringing on the angel of death, but I am not taking any chances.

So for now, I write and rewrite it every day in my head, hoping that when the time comes, I will know what to say. My fear is that when the time comes, I will have nothing prepared and nothing to say. My grief will overtake my thoughts and I will stand there weeping.

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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kathleen May 11, 2009, 10:54 AM

I wanted to share my reaction to your article. This is truly not meant to criticize, but to share my reaction. - I enjoyed the article but I dont think it acurately conveys what you are thinking. The text on the home page was compelling enough for me to “click to read more” but I was a little stunned to be almost at the end of the article and discover that your mother was not dead! Struggling with a eulogy for a dead parent and stuggling with a eulogy for a living parent are very different things, the latter, likely being more interesting. You wrote it with the knowledge that she is alive, but I read it without that knowledge and was experiencing your article as if she was dead. So from the beginning I understood that you were compelled to write your mother’s eulogy. Now that I realize she is alive, I feel I dont know enough about why you are compelled. Just my 2 cents - Blessings :o) Kathleen

Toni May 11, 2009, 11:52 AM

I am sorry for what you are going through with your mom. I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer, it was the worst thing I have ever gone through. And i know what you mean about pre-writing the eulogy, i thought about what i would say for years leading up to his eventual death. You feel like by writing the words you are dooming them to a fate to come. In my dad’s eulogy I spoke of what a fun guy he was, told funny stories, and thanked him for all my “quirks” I can attribute to him. I wrote about the importance of his life and how he impacted mine. I think in another article you wrote about how someone said it was easier to lose a loved one in an instant tragic event, than watch one die a slow death- i felt that way till the day my dad died. I was so grateful after the fact that I had so much time to make memories and know there was nothing left unsaid between us. I am sorry for what you are going through, my heart aches for your family and your children and what will be lost. All I can say is, eventually the memories you think of that make you cry now, will be replaced with memories that make your heart smile. It just takes time.

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