Nearing the end of her life, 84-year-old Joan started deteriorating quickly. She couldn’t get around without a walker, spent most of the day in bed, didn’t bathe regularly or groom herself. Her refusal to treat her severe sleep apnea had left her with a dementia-like condition. She was extremely rude to her husband, her main caregiver. Her son, Kyle, did what he could to help but was met with resistance every step of the way. He was left feeling angry and guilty.
He confessed to his wife, “When the time comes, how am I supposed to write a eulogy for Mom? There’s nothing positive to say.” His wife replied, “Remember who she was before she got sick, what made her special. Don’t let her be defined by her worst – celebrate her best.”
The newspaper obituaries of elderly people are often accompanied by pictures of the deceased at a younger stage in life. It’s because, like eulogies, obituaries are a celebration of the entire life of the individual – not just their final years. Especially when their final years are marked by dementia or chronic illness.
For a lot of the same reasons you may choose to pre-plan funerals for your elderly parents, you may also consider writing their eulogies before they pass away. That way, you have time to clearly think about what you say without the fog of grief hanging over your head. You can also ask Mom and Dad how they would like to be remembered and if there is anything specific they want you to say.
If you don’t think you will be able to deliver the eulogy, pre-planning will give you the chance to ask another family member to speak in your place – either reading your words, or their own.
In our next blog post we’ll look at what your eulogy should include.