Coins, stamps, dolls, celebrity photos—those are the sort of thing most people collect. I’m not most people. I do offbeat things, like making a collection of all the eulogies I have delivered over the years. Morbid? Not at all. Eulogies (particularly Jewish ones) show a slice of history and depending on how much the family members tell me, they may include a humorous anecdote and a bit of honesty about a less rosier side of the deceased. Here is an example:
(Dated September 2014) The array of diamond rings, the sparkling watch bands, the silver necklaces and the golden bracelets all beckoned Lester’s customers into his store. But the central attraction of his jewelry store was Lester himself. Wearing a blazer, he dressed like a gentleman in every respect. His fairness, his expertise, his genteel manners, and his devotion to the customer, raised the bar in the jewelry business as to what constituted customer service.
Imagine the following scenario if you will: a couple was going to be married and the wedding day arrived, diamond ring still not in hand—not in the groom’s hand, and certainly not in anyone else’s. Just like in the movies, the ring arrived at Lester’s store just in time for him to personally drive over to the church and practically slip the ring onto the bride’s finger as the clergyman was pronouncing the couple man and wife. Now that’s what I call customer service!
Before taking over the jewelry store from his father, who had established it in 1906, Lester served as a bombardier in World War II. As his grandson said, “Grandfather was a war hero”….
The public knew Lester as an upright citizen, but not much about his personal life. I learned that he was, as the family put it, “a magnet for dogs and babies”. A lucky white poodle that sought him out at the dining room table got the high class treats of spaghetti and of ice cream. Wait, spaghetti and ice cream? The family also told me a bit about how he cherished his wife. They had been married for 53 years. But despite all these sources of satisfaction, perhaps he never allowed himself the pleasures of spontaneity and of wearing informal clothes. Seeing him in jeans and a T-shirt would have been as incongruous as tossing his diamond jewelry out the store window.
Might it be, though, that now Lester is in a heavenly place, enjoying all that he had missed out on? Perhaps he is back in his wife’s arms, relaxing in a comfy cardigan and jeans as he and she lift up all the babies in heaven to fuss over. Perhaps they both are even now feeding all the dogs who have gathered round, petting them to their hearts content.
If you are reading this to learn about writing a eulogy, keep in mind that you are honoring the deceased and helping the mourners to launch their grief journey. Aiming for the three ingredients of humor history and honesty point the way to making this happen.
For more of my writing, see me at https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan