He’s Still Alive!
Before reading any further, it’s only fair that I say clearly that, at least as of the date of this posting, my Dad is still alive! He has seen healthier and more active days for sure, but he is still alert and even at 93 has the vast majority of his senses and wits about him.
So what’s with the click-bait headline? This has actually been on my to-do list for about a year now – writing a eulogy for my Dad, not so much as to save time when the inevitable day comes but rather as a means to share with him how I viewed him over the years, juxtaposed with an obituary he wrote for himself a few years ago.
My Dad is an engineer and to call him organized would be an understatement. He created a file both in his filing cabinet and on his laptop several years ago called “Death of Hugh”, with the sole intention being to organize his affairs so that his family would have minimal administrative stress upon his passing. And even if I got a chuckle from this at the time, I appreciated the care and time he spent listing out all passwords, location of key documents, etc. Not a bad thing to do at any age to be honest.
He also wrote his own obituary which included all vital statistics about his place of birth, parents, etc. And in true engineer style he included an FYI note at the top “Please note that I have omitted my mother’s maiden name, as this is sometimes used to gain access to internet sites and result in fraud.” Good thinking!
Technically speaking, an obituary is meant to serve as an announcement of one’s death and generally includes facts related to the deceased’s life. And this is what my Dad drafted for us, with the opening sentence as follows:
“Hugh A. Saye passed away on ______.”
He then went on to write two pages and a total of 56 lines of text summarizing his life.
I recently pulled out a copy of the text and put it through a bit of analysis to see what I might learn about how he viewed the past 90+ years. I noted four categories of what he wrote about:
- Basic facts (e.g., born on June 29, 1923)
- Family (mentions of wife, me and my sister, etc.)
- Hobbies and others interests (his love of music, which was a big part of his life, and his service at church over the years)
- Career and education
Counting up the lines of his obituary by category, the life of Hugh Saye, according to himself, can be summarized as follows:
Although anyone who knows my Dad well would know there is more to him than his career and education, I wasn’t surprised to see that this was the main topic he wrote about. In some ways it is something core to most men, I believe, in that they find their identify in what they “do”. Society, especially in America, supports this as the opening question most men ask of each other when being introduced is “What do you do?”. And if my Dad were to be honest with himself, I truly believe he would not want to be remembered for his various jobs he had over the years, even if some of them were in exotic locations like London, Germany or Italy.
Writing a Eulogy
So to help my Dad realize this for himself, and to also express my gratitude for his life, I’ve taken the liberty to write up his eulogy now – the eulogy I’ll give at his funeral when that day comes.
This little exercise has been helpful for me as well to help imagine what kind of eulogy I would like to have read at my funeral. This is something almost anyone could benefit from, especially when there are still many good years ahead, as it can help serve as a road map for how you want to be remembered when you are gone.
But start by writing one for a parent, even if they have already passed, and you’ll see how refreshing and soul-touching a process it is. I had no pre-conceived notion of what I would write but in the process was able to connect the dots between his life and mine, noting the timeless characteristics of faith and love he modeled to me over the years.
If you know my Dad and care to read the eulogy I’ve written, drop me a note either by email or leave a comment below and I will share it with you. Maybe you’ll point out some things I forgot – it’s not set in stone yet and won’t be final until the day I finally read it out loud.