Behind the Scenes of my Eulogy

When a movie comes out on home video it is often accompanied by some bonus features and many come with making of documentaries or audio commentaries. Think of this post as the making of the eulogy that I delivered at my dad’s funeral.

One of the earliest points I made in the eulogy is that I had been thinking about it for quite some time. This is one of those Obi-wan Kenobi statements that can be considered true or false depending on your point of view. I had been thinking about eulogizing my father for quite awhile and in that way the statement is true. I did not really spend a whole lot of time thinking about the actual words until after he had passed.
There is one other statement that maybe wasn’t as truthful as I made it sound. I did say everything to my dad that I wanted him to hear before he died. However, I never did tell him that I wanted to be the one who delivered his eulogy. I don’t regret that I didn’t get the chance to tell him that but I do wish that I had done so.

As I do whenever I give a speech, I rely on two things. I rely on my past experiences with public speaking and I rely on everything I was taught in debate class all of those years ago. But for all of the ways that those two things have been helpful my method is still rather unconventional. I mentioned in my previous post that I had no outline and I had no notes. This is entirely true.

I didn’t write anything down not because I think it is unnecessary. I rely on my memory a lot and I did map things out in my head several times before giving the speech. The truth is that I have a Braille embosser that can be connected to my computer. If it were I could have typed notes in a word processor and using special software converted it to Braille and printed it out. But my software is out of date and so the printer while theoretically very useful to me is currently a space consumer.
My braille writer isn’t in great shape and so I didn’t even try to braille notes by hand. Besides, this wasn’t the first speech I had composed off the top of my head and is not likely to be the last. Now, if I had been given a hard time-limit of 10 minutes as an example then I would have tried to figure something out so I could time things out in advance. But like I said, nobody has said that it was too long. They could be being polite but I really don’t think so.

It did help that I came up with three main points that I wanted to make. There was a truth, a lesson and a mission that I believe could be taken away from my father’s death. This is where all of those years of debate helped. Even though I didn’t write out an outline I did boil everything down to those points. I made sure that the three points flowed from one to the other and that I had appropriate examples/stories to tell when illustrating each point.
Also, from years of debate, I made sure to let the audience hear those three points more than once and I told them when I was moving from one to another. It makes a speech easier to follow if there are things that a person can anchor their mind to for later reference. Most people who have heard it won’t remember everything I said but should remember those three points. And if they don’t, through the magic of The Internet, they can watch the video again and be reminded.

It helped that so much of what I wanted to say I had already written about on this website. My eulogy contains parts of this post, this one, this one and probably this one. The eulogy was definitely on my mind when I wrote this one.

As long as it was it could have been longer. There were a couple of things that I wanted to mention that slipped my mind as I was standing up there. Honestly, I know there were things I wanted to say but didn’t but the fact I would have to think about them to recall what they were means that they weren’t critical to the points I was trying to make.
One of them that did come to mind just now was about how my dad was good at taking things apart but not so good when it came to putting them back together. It wasn’t that he was unable to put them back together it was just that finishing projects wasn’t his strongest atribute. If I had mentioned this in the eulogy it would have come when I was talking about the lesson. My dad wanted to write letters to be read at his funeral but he never got that project finished. He always figured he’d still have more time. But in fairness to him, I certainly didn’t think he’d be gone so soon after leaving the hospital. I knew he wasn’t going to last six months but I certainly didn’t think he’d only last five days.

I could have shortened the speech by speaking faster. I can talk a lot faster than I did at the funeral but my slow pace was deliberate. I knew I was going to be videoed, it was my idea (although I’m not the only person to think of it) but I had concerns about the quality of the audio. I thought that I could make up for less than stellar audio quality by speaking slower and making sure I spoke clearly so that each word could be understood.

How did I feel before giving my eulogy? I did not sleep the night before. I kept running over what I wanted to say in my head. Even though I had settled on three points to make for awhile I was worried I would forget one of them. I would remember to talk about the truth and the lesson but forget to talk about the mission or forget that the mission was what I had elected to call it.
I was not nervous about speaking in front of a crowd. I have done that so often that it doesn’t even concern me. The fact that I can’t see facial expressions is a problem for me in many ways but in this case it is beneficial. I might have been thrown if I could look out in the audience and see that people were bored or disinterested. I’m not suggesting that they were only the fact that my not knowing either way meant that there was one less thing for me to be concerned about. I could give my speech and if people liked it that was great and if they didn’t, I’d probably never hear about it anyway.

How did I feel immediately after it was over? I was relieved but also drained. I ate very little at the lunch after the burial service. This is a tradition that goes back to my debating days. At tournaments I used to have to avoid eating altogether. I kept throwing up before big rounds. Part of it was because of nerves and debate wasn’t the only thing that prompted that biological reaction. But I’m also convinced that had I been taking acid reflux medication back then it wouldn’t have been an issue.
I got praised for my performance almost immediately. You’d think this would help pick me up and it did but not right away. I had to come down off of the high of actually delivering the eulogy in my own way.

This is where I am going to be the most honest. I am truthfully very happy with all of the feedback I received and not just at the funeral. I have received even more positive comments after putting the video online. It is not my nature to brag which is why I’m more likely to say that other people thought it was great than I am to say that I know it was great.
However, in reality, I knew it was great. I crushed the eulogy and can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a word if I had to do it all over. But I can also say that I could not deliver the same speech again, if I got called back to deliver it a second time for some reason it would be different. Mostly because I wasn’t working off of no notes and no outline and that makes it harder to duplicate.

Have I watched the video yet? No, I haven’t and it is unlikely that I ever will. The truth is that I have an intense dislike of hearing my own voice on recordings. In High School german class we had to record a video for a project. When it came time to show the projects in class I had to leave the room because I couldn’t handle listening to myself. I did many podcasts back in the day and hope to do more in the future but I very rarely listened back to them. In the few cases where I did go back it was never for a whole show but for particular segments I wanted to hear again.
I don’t want to suggest that I couldn’t learn something from watching myself again. I believe a person can always get better with enough practice and study. However, if I went back I’d be so distracted by my voice that it would overshadow anything else I could learn.

People have said that I should be using my talent for public speaking more, in fact, on person said I am wasting my talent. I don’t really disagree with that notion. But if I am going to use that talent in a productive way I want to do so in a way that I can live with and that will make me happy. Also, a lot of those same people also want me to use my writing talent more often and so that should be factored in as well. But the thing that gives me pause is that this was very stressful for me and not simply because it was eulogizing my father whom I love. I told people that I didn’t debate in college because I liked being able to sleep and eat and that was true. That’s why finding the right way for me to use my talent is so important, I’m not interested in something that is going to stress me out and make me unhappy. If that happened I wouldn’t want to use my talent at all and that would be a real loss.

As the late Paul Harvey would say, now you know…the rest of the story.