In Memoriam: The Experience of Eulogizing a Loved One


  • Paul Sopcak



Whether the "call" to write a eulogy comes when we learn of our loved one's death or shortly after, it comes when we may not yet be able to mourn--let alone make a declaration. The death of a loved one may alienate us from the world and from the sense of self that rests on our daily living in the world and with others. It may "individualize us down to ourselves" by throwing us into a world utterly devoid of meaning and anchors. Paradoxically, from this "nothing," a call may usher forth demanding us to take a stand on our loved one's death and ultimately on our being here. Trying to avoid hearing this call when threatened by the nothingness and world-collapse that a loved one's death brings may be the most natural response. But what happens when we are asked to write a eulogy? Can we ignore the call or is it itself inextricably intertwined with our mourning and precisely that which begs to be expressed? This paper describes the experience of eulogizing a loved one as an encounter with the mortality of words, as listening to silence, and as addressing the deceased--without bathos or pathos.