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The 100 hours funeral marathon and the importance of having a draft eulogy

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As some of you know, my father passed away on February 22, 2011, early in the day. And from the moment I received the sad news up until the reception following the funeral service; only 100 hours had elapsed. At first glance it may seem like a lot, but now that I had to live through it, I can testify without a doubt that it’s very little, considering all that needs to be done and especially when, as was the case for me, there were no pre-arrangements. In order to better illustrate my point, here is an outline of how my time was spent during those 100 hours:

  • 12 hours to travel between my home and Montreal, which also includes the time spent travelling to my sister’s home and then my mother’s to announce the sad news
  • 12 continuous hours of funeral arrangements (funeral home, florists, caterer, visiting my father’s home, etc.)
  • 4 hours spent on the phone, notifying my parents’ entourage of the sad news
  • 13 hours at the clinic and then at the emergency ward seeking treatment for my mother, following the beginning of a phlebitis that emerged a few hours before learning of the passing of her husband (definitely something that wasn’t planned). It’s also during the time spent at the emergency ward that my wife and I created and edited the “PowerPoint” video that was presented at the funeral
  • 22 hours of sleep in four nights
  • 17 hours associated with the wake at the funerary complex and the funeral itself
  • 17 hours of miscellaneous tasks (hygiene, meals, related administrative tasks, etc.)
  • 3 hours to rework the eulogy

Why do I feel the need to share all this with you? In order to demonstrate the benefit of the approach I’ve been advocating for some time already, in which I encourage everyone to begin drafting the eulogy of their dear ones while they are still among us. It all started a couple of years back, when following the passing of one of my uncles, my cousin delivered such a moving and heartfelt eulogy, so well said that it scared me a little because I thought: “How could I be as eloquent as him when the time came for one of my parents?” Therefore, it was he, without even knowing, that inspired me to apply myself and to begin drafting my parents’ eulogies in advance so that when time came, I would not be taken in by surprise without preparation but instead I would have a eulogy worthy of the appreciation I felt for them, similar to the one delivered by my cousin. For some this may seem a little macabre, but let me tell you about all the good that arises from doing so, before you make up your mind. Actually, I discovered that on top of the satisfaction of being ready for that fateful moment, this approach has brought in additional benefits that I could not foresee initially.

Writing a eulogy over a longer period of time helps in focusing on what really defines the person for whom we’re writing it and in finding the right words and right turns of phrase, so that everything is consistent, significant, heartfelt, and so on. For whoever has already had to write a text will know and appreciate the dissatisfaction we experience when facing a first draft and the desire that leads to continuous reworking in order to be sure that it truly reflects our thinking.

In addition, this exercise allows us to get closer to the people who are dear to us while they are still among us. Thus, I was able to get closer to my father, with whom I sometimes had a difficult relationship, since my quest for the right words allowed me to see beyond the things that I resented and to better appreciate the man he was. My father was somewhat of a controlling man, among other things, but I managed to embrace this trait of his personality as a result of this exercise, since I understood that it was due to an excess of love and therefore a desire to avoid us any hardships, nothing more. In turn, it made me ​​more accepting and appreciative of everything he has done for me. And although to this day I remain in disagreement with the way he dealt with things in this area, feeling that his approach towards my mother harmed her to a certain point, especially towards the end, I recognize that this was his way of showing us his great love. What can I say?

In the end, whether you decide to begin writing the eulogies that you will one day have to deliver or not is entirely up to you. Remember though, that starting early with the eulogies of your loved ones can help you to see them in a different light and to appreciate them fully. Perhaps this exercise will provide you with unexpected moments of happiness on top of embellishing your relationships, whether turbulent or not.

Finally, because I am proud of what my father accomplished during his lifetime as well as what he passed on to me, for those interested, I am pleased to share with you the eulogy I delivered on February 26th in his honour. You’ll find it at:

In any case, don’t wait to deliver the eulogy of dear ones to show them your love, because they will not hear you. Instead, tell them today and every day while you still have the chance.

P.-S. If it interests you, here is the link to my father’s commemorative bookmark only available in French though.

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