I was recently asked to give a eulogy for my sister in law, Lynn, who died after a tough five year fight with cancer. This is the second family eulogy I've given and although it is not easy, I will do it not only for the family but for myself.
If and when you are asked to give a eulogy, give it your best shot. Make it personal, interesting and detailed. This is your very last chance to paint a bright picture of this beloved person you have lost, from their personality to fond memories.
Here is the text, which contains mild profanity, so be warned.
I am so glad to see you all here today to remember my high octane sister in law, Lynn. When her kids asked me to speak I knew I wanted to share a few memories and thoughts while I had the chance, since I've never regretted speaking up at a funeral and was always sorry if I didn't take the opportunity to share some memories.
So, how do you describe such a unique woman?
She was a live wire. A spitfire. A high energy bundle of guts and determination. I remember a Charles Schultz poster back in the 70s. It showed Lucy carrying a football and running hell for leather. It said, "Outta my way, I'm going for it!" That sums up Lynn perfectly. Get out of her way or help her move along, but either way, she went for it. You know it's true!
She loved her kids, fiercely. There's a word that fits...fiercely. That's Lynn all the way. We give our kids our genetics then watch to see how the family mix shows up in them. Her children and grandchildren have that stubborn family pride. But you also have your mom's determination and grit. And her zest for life. And her lasting love.
She could be hard headed but with a soft spot for kids, puppies and kittens.
She loved her horses when she had them.
She loved her family and friends and she loved working hard at her job AND she was good at it.
She loved fielding those tricky hops in the outfield and throwing you out.
She loved shooting the moon in pinochle and you were a shitbird if you succeeded in tripping her up. And yes, shitbird was kinda sorta a term of endearment.
She loved reading good books and bad. Even the romance novels she called "smut." And she loved to try, just one more time, to win a jackpot at the casino.
She did not suffer fools gladly.
And, oh, did she love to laugh.
Oh my God, did we have some good times. The four of us went to see Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian and carried on so much during the show we just knew we were going to get kicked out. After the show was over the teenagers behind us said they'd never laughed so hard at any movie. But Lynn started it...when the movie opened with the hunters bringing a deer carcass into the camp, she said out loud in the almost silent theater, "Did they kill Bambi?" And we were off....!
At literally dozens of family gatherings there would always be a moment when the two of us would look at the table loaded with goodies (including holidays when there would sometimes be a whole pie for each person) and we'd ask each other, "Do you think we have enough food?" Then we'd both shake our heads and say, "Nah!!!" And we'd crack up.
One time when she was married to my brother in law, we were at a square dance and it was his birthday. The ladies lined up to give him a smooch. But it was Lynn who grabbed his brother and put him in line, too. The kissing came to an abrupt halt right then and there! And somewhere there is a photo of that event, with his brother kissing him on the cheek and her husband flipping off the camera.
I have to tell you that nobody wore 80's fashions like Lynn. For one thing, she was thin as a whip and had legs that looked five foot long. Picture her in a fitted pant suit with big shoulder pads and high heeled boots and some chunky jewelry. Man! She rocked it. The picture for her obituary? The kids chose it just for that reason.
I have to tell the girls in the family that she looked upon your significant others with a gimlet eye and strong opinions. Which she mostly kept to herself. Mostly. If she was here she'd say, "You be good to our girls, now."
I have to tell the boys in the family that she always knew you were good men at heart and would do the right thing for the ladies and children in your lives. And that you all threw off the prettiest babies! She would say to you, "Cowboy up and do what's right."
I have to tell you that she thought people should do right by their family and friends. You did not want to be on the wrong end of that opinion! She was generous and affectionate and would do just about anything for you but boy, you did not want to take advantage of that generous nature. And more than once I've heard her say, "Enough of that noise," or "Been there, done that. Got the tee shirt. I'm outta here."
I have to tell you that nobody loved her coffee more than Lynn. Am I right? You know I'm right. Tho I know there's a generation of coffee lovers out here that would give her a run for her money.
And I have to tell you this....when I put together my Fantasy Tribe to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, I've got Lynn on my list. Not only could she butcher a deer, build a fire, sharpen a knife and siphon gas, but she was a crack pistol shot. She could jump start a battery and start a rolling car by popping the clutch. She could cook a full meal over a camp fire. She could drive a stick, a 4 x 4, a tractor, a semi, a 4 wheeler and a forklift. She was a helluva horsewoman. She would have had no problem with a sword or a bow and arrow. She was sharp witted and sharp eyed. I want this warrior on my team!
A few days ago I got to hold some fluffy puppies and I thought, "Lynn would have loved you guys!" I see where an author is writing another book in a romance series, and I know Lynn would have devoured that book. I watched the newest Conan movie and even though the new guy is a hunk, I know that she still liked Arnold better. I will remember her in ways I haven't even begun to count and I will miss her more than I can stand.
Do you remember in Lord of the Rings, the scene where Gandalf is falling with the fiery Balrog down thru the darkness and he is fighting hard all the way? That was Lynn.
The Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, wrote, "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." That was Lynn.
She fought her battles hard until she couldn't outlast this final enemy. She didn't want her greater circle of family and friends to fuss over her. It actually would have pissed her off. But right here and right now we want to say thank you to the ones who took care of her and helped her. Remembering Lynn ties us together today. I'm sure there are stories that some of us haven't heard. Now is the time and the place to share.
I am by no means a professional public speaker. Through the years I took the lessons from Speech class in high school and applied them to teaching Sunday School, leading worship services, Rotary functions, employee training and family reunions.
If you are asked to give a eulogy give it your best and put aside your own nerves for the good of the group. Remember, they are on your side and want to hear the positive things you have to say. And better to share your good memories and say a loving goodbye than keeping silent and wishing you'd said something as a farewell. Too often the eulogy is left to a religious leader or even someone referred by the funeral home, and they may not know your lost one as a real person.
For example, at one of our family funerals the only speaker was a preacher who mispronounced the family name all the way thru his short, impersonal speech.
So, think on these things. You can do this for someone you have loved and lost.