Friday, January 6, 2012

Remembering Your Friends…In a Eulogy

This week I said that we’d be looking at some of the many ways we can remember a friend who has died. One way is through words, specifically in their eulogy.
I’ve been to too many funerals where the minister didn’t know the deceased at all, and that never fails to make me angry.
What is the purpose of a eulogy? If the purpose is to make total strangers feel they knew that person, then in this re-post from June, Fr. Duffy succeeded. If he wanted us all to remember Fr. Judge for years to come, well, I think he succeeded there, too:

I’ve never been called upon to give a eulogy for a friend. I wrote the eulogy a hospice chaplain read for my father’s funeral. I’ve made remarks at friends’ memorial services. But I’ve never given a formal eulogy: never stood up in front of a gathering of mourners, script in hand, before a microphone, praying for strength.
The photo here is one of the most iconic images of September 11, 2001. Fr. Mychal Judge was a New York City fire department chaplain. He died ministering at the World Trade Center. His funeral, at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street four days later, was nationally televised.
Franciscans are required to leave instructions “in the event of” their death, and on the morning following the attacks, Fr. Michael Duffy was told that Fr. Judge had left instructions for him to give the eulogy.
I was shaken and shocked … for one thing, as you know from this gathering, Mychal Judge knew thousands of people. He knew, he seemed to know everybody in the world. And if he didn’t then, they know him now, I’m sure. Certainly he had friends that were more intellectual than I, certainly more holy than I, people more well-known. And so I sat with that thought, why me … and I came down to the conclusion that I was simply and solely his friend … and I’m honored to be called that.

I always tell my volunteers in Philadelphia that through life, you’re lucky if you have four or five people whom you can truly call a friend. And you can share any thought you have, enjoy their company, be parted and separated, come back together again and pick up right where you left off. They’ll forgive your faults and affirm your virtues. Mychal Judge was one of those people for me. And I believe and hope I was for him …
How do you sum up a life and a friendship? Fr. Duffy’s eulogy is as good as they get: personal, joyful, mournful. Even if you never met Fr. Judge, by the end of the homily you’ll feel that he was your friend, too.
Thanks to Fr. Duffy for teaching us all about his friend.

For more information on Fr. Mychal Judge, his life and his legacy:
For the entire transcript of Fr. Duffy’s homily:


virtualdavis said...

Enjoyed the post, Viki. I suspect the most powerful eulogies do not attempt to "sum up a life and a friendship" but celebrate highlights from the life friendship in a way that invites those hearing the eulogy to summon up their own highlights. In this way a eulogy marks a transition, not a closure, and it serves as an open invitation to those gathered to let their friend, their loved one cross from the living to the remembered. There is a sort of non-religious immortality in this, I think. Does this make any sense?

Friend Grief said...

George (you who gave such a beautiful eulogy for your friend, Christopher)-
I've always believed that people aren't really gone if they're remembered. Everyone who hears a powerful eulogy remembers it - and the person. So, yes, I agree, and you do make sense. Scary, huh? ;)