Twice in the last two years I’ve written and “performed” eulogies to my last two remaining grandparents. Twice in my life have I been asked to perform eulogies. It’s a skillset I apparently have that I’m not in any hurry to use any time immediately soon.
A secret: I enjoyed writing them. In the process of dealing with the deaths, writing about them was cathartic, and it’s one of the very few ways that in the wake of such tragedy I can do, do reasonably well, and contribute.
A second secret: Writing Grandad’s, and then to a lesser extent Grandma’s this week, started from a process I actually learnt as a LARP character. My character from Maelstrom, a priest of the goddess of knowledge and experiementation (ish), ended up performing funerals a couple of times an event. Funerals at LARP events are an interesting phenomenon, a celebration of a character’s life performed often with the player lying still in the centre, listening to a final literny of how their character has affected the game of the people around them. I’ve never actually had one – I’ve never had a LARP character die in uptime – but as Speaker Detail Marshall, I performed dozens, for my friends, for people I’d never really met, and for my character’s ex-wife (who is also also, for bonus weird points, my out-of-character girlfriend).
So when I was asked to do a short tribute for the funeral service of my Grandad, it’s that well I eventually went to – the five part structure: My relationship to the eulogy, Stories from the person’s life framed as a biography, My relationship to the person, the person’s relationship to the world, heart-string conclusion – was a framework I knew I could work in.
This one was harder, because it felt like a larger problem – it was a longer time, too – and I could see all the cracks in the first one open like earthquake faults. I’m not a perfectionist – I don’t have the attention to detail or the talent – but I am my own worst editor.
And I can see the problems. It runs too fast, it doesn’t break for thinking space, it peaks too often in the first section and the final paragraphs are a black-dimond-ski-slope towards a depressing end. These are all problems with the one I wrote yesterday too.
As I say, my own worst critic.
But the vicar who performed the service today said my eulogy was one of the best he’d ever heard, and everyone who came had a kind word for it, and they helped me deal with the loss.
I hope it’s not a skillset I have to use very often, though.