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While They Can Still Hear (The Case For Living Eulogies)

We say pretty words about dead people.

There’s something about Death that forces the poet in us to the surface. When we lose someone we love, we suddenly feel free to speak beautiful, flowery sentiments of gratitude, and affection, and admiration; words that we’d kept bottled-up for years; words the other person had been longing their entire lives for.

And now that we’re finally ready to say them, they can’t hear.

My father passed away this time last year, and like many who grieve, I talk to him all the time. One of the greatest sources of peace I have, comes from the fact that he’s heard it all before.

He knew I loved him and respected him and was grateful for him, because I’d told him when he was alive. While I often wonder if the words reach him now, I take comfort in knowing that they reached him then.

Life can be shockingly mundane, and that monotony has a way of tricking us; of lulling us into believing that we have as much time as we need with people. That feeling sedates us just enough, so that we rarely feel the urgency of fully expressing our hearts to those we love.

And then, when we have everything instantly ripped-out from under us in the blink of a tear-filled eye, things suddenly feel pretty darn urgent.

In the moments and months following the loss of someone we love, we get hit by the frantic flood of every unspoken thought, every withheld word, every undelivered sweetness; and we plead for just a few precious seconds back so that we can say all that we never said; all that we should have said. Time becomes something invaluable that we’d gladly sell everything we own for.

Eulogies are really wonderful things, they’re just usually really poorly timed.

We like to say that people are “late” after they’ve passed away, but the truth is that our words are often late too. They’re often too late to change the path of a life while it’s being lived, too late to bring restoration to a broken-hearted soul while still in its body, too late to give someone wings while their feet still touch the ground.

I think we should give people living eulogies; that we should speak lavish, unashamed words of love and kindness, not about them after they’re gone, but to them while we can.

Because the truth is, when it comes to the people you love, (as impossible as it can be to believe), one day you won’t get to choose.

One day you’ll pick-up the phone to call them, and then you’ll catch yourself and remember; and put it back down.
One day you’ll want to sit across from them and say everything you never said but should have; and the chair will be empty.
One day you’ll speak every life-giving, grateful, love-drenched word; and you’ll do it to a head stone, or a casket, or to the ether.

Friend, there are people around you who need to see the full contents of your heart, now. They deserve the blessing of  knowing that they matter, today.

Realize that time is startlingly short.
Give eulogies to the living.
Memorialize them face-to-face.

Speak all the words of love, to those you love.

Say everything while they can still hear.




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