How to Write a Eulogy
this is the first draft of the eulogy I gave for my grandfather. I changed about 25% of it on the fly, but I don’t have a copy of what I actually said. Everyone whose opinion I care about loved it, including my grandmother. Speak from the heart, be sincere, and let the rest take care of itself.
“We gather here today to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of a man very dear to all of us. I’ve thought a lot about my grandfather in the past few days and–odd as it may sound–have found myself smiling constantly. I’ve dwelt upon what this man meant to me, and our times together. With your indulgence I would like to share a few of those.
My grandfather was not a vocally expressive man. He wasn’t one to tell us that he loved us, or to express his affection in words. Instead he was a man of quiet action who expressed his feelings by his deeds. One of my most enduring memories of childhood is sitting in the cab of his truck with the sunlight warming me all through while we tried to corral the cattle. He would hide two candy bars behind the seat of his truck, one each for my brother and I. When we figured that out and started searching for the candy bars he stopped, because it was supposed to be a treat, not something expected. Of course he could always be cajoled into a candy bar and pop when we stopped at Gene’s Fina, which was often.
I remember the day that I was eleven years old and we were doing some work over at Aunt Mert’s house. He told me to run over and pull that truck up closer so that it could be used. I moved that truck all of twenty yards, but I felt so big because I had driven! Over the next three years–until I was legally licensed–he taught me how to drive on that long trip from our house to his. I still hear his tutoring, “45 is fast enough on these back roads,” “stay to the right on the hills – you can’t see what’s coming,” and “pay attention to the road in front of you.” Of course he cheerfully ignored that last admonition himself – driving with his arms folded across the steering wheel and his eyes on the crops and cattle to either side of him, but rarely on the road.
When I was 14 I skipped school for the first, and last, time. Timmy and I drove around on the backroads, just enjoying a spring day, before heading over to find Gramps to ask him to call in and excuse us. He told us not to make it a habit, but called in for us. Grandma raised the roof when she found out, but Gramps knew about boys and springtime.
Soon after that he fell ill and was more and more confined to a chair or a couch for most of the day. After the funeral for my great-grandfather he lay on the couch in a side room while most people congregated in the other room. My cousin Andy pulled Wes and me aside and said “C’mon, let’s go mess with Gramps–he’s lonely.” So we went in, three strapping young lads, and debated loudly whether the three of us could take Gramps out in a wrestling match. Gramps chewed us out and fire flickered in his eyes – but that fire was love because we were his boys.
While I was in Ireland studying I communicated with everyone via email. I’m horrible at writing letters – they’re just so archaic for one raised with computers. But I took the time to write exactly one letter that year, and I am very glad that I did. I wrote a letter to my Grandparents telling them how much it meant to me that they were in my life. I told them that I appreciated them moving in to take care of us when Dad was called up for Desert Storm. I am very glad that I wrote that letter when I did–that I told this wonderful man what he meant to me before it was too late.
Let me take a brief moment to the say the same to Grandma. Grandma, your family is not impressed with you. Your family is not appreciative of you. No, your family is overawed with you. You cared for your husband, cared for your mother, and cared for yourself with energy and a love that is immeasurable. You did things you never had to do because you had to. And you loved and
cared for every one of us in your sprawling family.
To close, I mourn today. I also rejoice today. My Grandfather lived a long and full life. He was born, grew up and married. He raised his children and loved his wife. And at the end he had not only grandchildren but also great-grandchildren, and that spark in his eye for the ones he loved. We return you now to the earth, and are sad to do so, but rejoice for a life so full and proud. I hope to be as rich as he was before I leave this earth… so I’ll be seeing you Gramps, but not for a while.”