Posts tagged how to
Posts tagged how to
Gravediggers exist in the popular imagination as a creepy, ghoulish breed. We keep them safely at a distance where they can carry the weight of our fantasies and fears about death. But what’s the reality?
No two funerals have ever been same. This is important, of course, in ensuring that the mourners don’t drift off and forget whose funeral they’re at, but mostly in enabling family and friends to meaningfully commemorate the end of a life.
Writing and delivering a eulogy or remembrance speech can seem daunting. In addition to the grief and sorrow you’re already feeling as you cope with the loss of a loved one, you must find the time to organize your thoughts, put them down on paper, and deliver your speech — all within the fairly compressed timeframe between the death and the funeral or memorial service. While only you can determine the unique tone of your eulogy, the following five tips will help you write and deliver a touching, meaningful eulogy in nearly any funeral or memorial setting.
Most people don’t like to think about their own mortality. Planning your own funeral means acknowledging that you will indeed one day die. It also means getting what you want for the right price while offering yourself and your loved ones peace of mind. If you’ve considered planning your own funeral, here are five reasons to stop procrastinating and start planning:
Passare, Inc., a trusted and relevant source for end-of-life planning and management, today announced the release of its newest resource How-to Guide: “Preparing for a Loved One’s End-of-Life.” Released as the 17th in a series designed to provide information, advice and counsel on end-of-life matters, the new eBook focuses on how to manage the different stages of a loved one’s end-of-life.
We hear the debate about children being at funerals pretty often around here and while we always encourage people to bring their children, they don’t always agree with us. Well, to my surprise, in the book What Happens When Someone Dies? the question is never even addressed, it is just automatically assumed that children will be there and explains with a delicate, gentle and uncomplicated voice what the child will experience.
HOW TO GIVE A EULOGY
It’s no easy task summing up someone’s life in just a few words. But I have my rules.
By Tom Chiarella
AT MY VERY FIRST FUNERAL, I wanted to say something. It was for a kid I’d known in high school who had somehow managed to get hit by a car in front of a bar outside my hometown. I’d read about it in the paper, left work, and snuck into the back of the service. I hadn’t known the guy all that well, but I remembered that he had a reputation for being particularly tough, the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to mess with. There was a picture of him somewhere—at the door or on the altar or in someone’s hands—and I remember that his hair was hanging down in front of his right eye, just as it always had in high school. I sat there, having come for selfish reasons, out of curiosity, really, thinking, Why was his hair always in front of his eye?
I wish I had spoken. I wish I had stood up and said something about that hair. The way this tough guy sort of hid behind that shock of hair, it told me something about him. But I kept quiet. I listened to the eulogy. I don’t remember one word of it. But the years flip by, and the hair is still in his eyes.
I’ve been asked to deliver a half dozen eulogies since then. People tell me I’m good at it. I don’t care about that. Being good at public speaking is just a party trick. I care about the task.
I’ve heard people say they dread giving eulogies. How, they ask, can you summarize a person’s life in a series of moments? I always shrug. It is hard. But I do have my rules.
FIRST THING TO KNOW is this: Giving a eulogy is good for you. Period.
It may hurt to write it. And reading it? For some, that’s the worst part. The world might spin a little, and everything familiar to you might fade for a few minutes. But remember, remind yourself as you stand there, you are the lucky one.
And that’s not because you aren’t dead. You were selected. You get to stand, face the group, the family, the world, and add it up. You’re being asked to do something at the very moment when nothing can be done. You get the last word in the attempt to define the outlines of a life. I don’t care what you say, bub: That is a gift.
If the idea bores you in some way, don’t do it. If on some level you are not interested in the problem of the assignment, this framing of a life, then simply say no. Suggest someone else. Say you’re too overcome with grief. Get out of it. The job matters.
THE WRITING and reading of a eulogy is, above all, the simple and elegant search for small truths. They don’t have to be truths that everyone agrees on, just ones they will recognize. This can be surprisingly hard, to take notice of the smallest, most unpolished details of a life and set them up for us to stare at in the wonder of recognition.
He protected his family above all else.
She could sometimes be a bully.
He thought out every answer he ever gave before he spoke. And he put his finger on his cheek when he did it.
She never wanted to talk about herself.
That man loved a cigar.
THEY MAY TELL YOU that you have three minutes. They may tell you that you have five. They may tell you to take all the time you want. It doesn’t matter: Time is always an insult at a funeral. Work within the finite space you’re given. Remember that the eulogy is just one part of the formation.
STANDING THERE on the dais, consider the world as a series of concentric rings of loyalty. The people in the nearest ring, those in the front row, are owed the most. You should speak first to them. And then, in the next measure, to the room itself, which is the next ring, and only then to the physical world outside, the neighborhood, the town, the place, and then, just maybe, to the machinations of life-muffling institutions.
Recently I was at the funeral of a friend who died a long, painful death from cancer. I was sitting there in the midday, with heavy wedges of light falling through the church windows, thinking about how she liked to smoke cigars with her husband and how she owned a house that was built entirely underground. A speaker got up and spoke about the woman’s death and the need for stem-cell research. Then the priest got up and urged everyone to listen to God’s word through the church. And then another speaker mentioned stem cells. Soon I forgot about my friend and the house and the cigars, and suddenly it was like watching The McLaughlin Group on a really dim frequency.
Remember your rings of loyalty.
YOU MUST WRITE IT DOWN. This is not a wedding toast. In grief, people ought not be forced to wander through memories that may not be acute, well framed, and, above all, purposeful.
AVOID SIMILES, the weakest and most friable form of metaphor. If, like me, you can’t avoid them altogether, at least spend some time on them. Construct them. Any fool can say, “Mike was like a tiger,” and he wouldn’t likely be wrong. I heard that one recently, and I found myself sitting there thinking not of Mike but of tigers and the stupid things people say about them—that they have heart, that they are ferocious, that they are the “last known survivor,” in the droning lyrics of “Eye of the Tiger.” I found myself thinking, Mike wasn’t like a tiger at all. Tigers are giant eating machines that lie around the zoo all day like so many junkies in a deep, sun-warmed nod. There’s a simile for you. You may want to argue that. But at least you get my point, because I know you’re not thinking about Mike.
YOU MAY CRY. Accept it. But you should not let yourself be hobbled. A eulogy is not a chance to show off what you feel. Need I say this? It is not about you.
That’s why you write it down. That’s why you read it aloud until you feel in yourself every response you might have to every detail. You want to get through the moments that will touch you. When my aunt Jane died, I read a catalog of truths about her in the middle of the eulogy. At one point I said, “She smoked too much.” I had read the thing to my dad in our hotel maybe six times. I’d read it the night before about fifteen more. I’d read it probably seven times that very morning, and I’d barely even noticed the line.
But in the church, on the heels of my father’s brilliant eulogy, with my mother not ten feet away from me, the line simply stopped me cold. I could see my aunt’s hands and the huge glass ashtrays she favored with three or four lipstick-smudged butts cocked in the ashes. I hadn’t expected to feel that. I started to cry. Later on, my brother said he hardly noticed it. Sometimes I think it must have been a gulp, but it felt more like an ax to the sternum.
I can recall, inside that moment, that the way I kept my composure was to say to myself, I owe her this much at least. It was a mantra I made up in advance. I said it to myself twice before I could go on. Make up a mantra to get yourself through those moments. Scratch it out on the top of every page.
THERE ARE SIMPLER RULES: Don’t read poetry unless you knew it going in. Don’t use Bartlett’s. Don’t do imitations. Don’t sing, unless they ask you to. Even then, consider not singing.
YOU MUST MAKE them laugh. Laughs are a pivot point in a funeral. They are your responsibility. The best laughs come by forcing people not to idealize the dead. In order to do this, you have to be willing to tell a story, at the closing of which you draw conclusions that no one expects.
When my friend Mary died, I could not type her name without crying. What can I tell you? I loved her. I’m not even offering you any piece of that love here. I don’t know you. That’s how much I want to keep that near me. I will tell you this: After she died, I asked to give her eulogy. I asked. It felt egotistical to do so, as if I were putting myself at the center of something that was not about me at all. But I stood in back of her house with her husband, wiping my nose on my sleeve while the gutters were spewing out rainwater at our feet, and told him I wanted it.
For Mary, I started by listing all the things everyone agreed on: that she was kind, that she cared about others, that she had delighted us—all of us, really—with small gifts from her travels, thoughtful notes, sweet inquiries after our children and families. It was not hard. She was an incredible person. I knew that everyone agreed on that.
I was not there to tell people what we all agreed on. That isn’t telling at all. Eulogies are assertions about the dead and the living alike. I knew more, so I paused and said, “But I’m here to tell you that Mary was not a glass of milk.” I was about to speak about her combativeness, her prickly side, her argumentative nature. But for a moment, the air went out of the room.
In any good eulogy, there are moments of panic. Silences. Laughter in the wrong places. Moments when the speaker gets choked up. These moments—the tears or the silence—these are why you learn to pause.
So I stopped for just a second. Then I heard her daughter laugh, a little at first and then more. And then both daughters. And I remembered my concentric rings of loyalty. Her laughter gave permission to the room to laugh with her. I looked at her then. I pointed my finger. “She knows what I’m talking about!” I said. And then we were all laughing.
Even so, I wanted to cry just then. That’s one of those surprises that comes when you give a eulogy, one of those things you prepare for but do not expect. But I had more to read and more that I owed Mary. I took a deep breath then, and I did the thing everyone does after someone they loved has died.
I gathered myself. And I decided to proceed.
What to Wear to a Jewish Funeral
A funeral is a time to be present for the mourners.
Funeral clothing doesn’t need to be elaborate.
The most-read post on this blog is “10 Tips for Attending a Jewish Funeral.” A lot of people find that entry by Googling “what to wear to a Jewish funeral” – so I thought it might be helpful for me to expand on the subject. When a person is in a new or uncomfortable situation, it helps to feel that one’s clothing is right.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is not your clothing, but your presence. It is better to show up in clothing that is a little bit “off” than to stay away.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLE IS RESPECT. We attend a funeral to show respect for the dead and to comfort the family. Therefore it’s important that our clothes show that respect: be clean, be tidy, and avoid anything flashy or attention-getting. The star of the show should be the departed, not someone in the third pew.
THE IDEAL FUNERAL OUTFIT for men or women is subdued in color, appropriate to the weather, and low-key in general. Think “subdued business clothing.”
SHOES should be comfortable, and if you are going to graveside, remember that you’ll be walking on plushy grass. Stiletto heels are stupid and dangerous in a cemetery. However, your favorite Nikes are a bit too casual unless your only other shoes have 4″ heels.
MODESTY is another way of showing respect. If the funeral is Orthodox, everyone should dress in clothing that covers at least shoulders and knees. Men should wear a head covering or accept a kippah (skullcap) if offered. It may be the custom for adult women to cover their heads as well. If you do not own a nice hat, carry a scarf so that you can put it on if needed. For an Orthodox funeral, women will be wearing skirts.
Even if the funeral isn’t Orthodox, a funeral is not a place to wear a sun dress, your shortest miniskirt, or shorts for either gender.
IN VERY HOT CLIMATES (say, Las Vegas in August) you may want to wear a hat that will give you shade and carry a bottle of water. Again the basic principle is that you don’t want to draw attention, so stay hydrated and shaded so that you don’t require EMT’s.
CELL PHONES should be SILENT. If you are a physician on call, set your phone or pager to vibrate. Otherwise, just turn it off and leave it alone for the service.
A TIP: Death comes periodically in every circle of friends, and often does not have advance warning. Figure out ahead of time what combination of clothes in your closet would be OK for a funeral. If you don’t have anything that would “do” for a funeral, it may be time to add something to your wardrobe. Accompanying the dead and comforting the mourner are important mitzvot, and when the time comes for you to go to a funeral, you don’t want to be worrying over fashion.
Finally, remember: showing up is the main thing. If the only way you can get there is in your bunny slippers, show up in bunny slippers.
How to Return Human Remains to the United States
The steps you should take if your loved one dies while traveling overseas
By Chris Raymond
Updated January 21, 2014
Planning a funeral service following the death of a loved one can prove challenging enough without the added burden of also arranging for the return of his or her body home from another country. Unfortunately, whether traveling or living abroad for business or pleasure, people do die unexpectedly far from home, and the next-of-kin must arrange for the repatriation of the body/human remains from the country in which the death occurred. This article details the steps you should take to return a deceased body to the United States for burial/interment if your loved dies while traveling overseas.
Help is Available
Whether you are traveling abroad with your loved one when the death occurs, or remain back in the United States and learn of it afterward, the first step is for the next-of-kin to contact a consular officer at the closest U.S. embassy or consulate in the country in which the death occurred. The “next-of-kin” is the person who possesses the nearest degree of relationship to the deceased, such as a spouse or domestic partner, a blood relative, or someone legally appointed to handle the affairs of the deceased.
Visit the U.S. State Department website, USEmbassy.gov, to find the necessary contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country in which the death occurred. Keep in mind that many countries are home to more than one U.S. embassy or consulate. The U.S. Department of State maintains four embassies in Russia, for example, nine embassies in China, and 13 embassies in Mexico, so you should contact a consular official in the city located nearest to where your loved one died for assistance. (And don’t worry: if the consular official you contact thinks a different embassy or consulate should help you, then he or she will redirect you.)
If the next-of-kin is located in the United States, he or she can also contact the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services toll-free at 888-407-4747, or locally at 202-501-4444, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time. For help outside of those hours, such as weeknights, weekends and/or holidays, the next-of-kin should call the U.S. Department of State at 202-647-4000 and ask to speak with the Overseas Citizens Services Duty Officer.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs
Once the next-of-kin has contacted an official at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, this individual will immediately offer various forms of assistance that will prove invaluable to the grieving family. Foremost, a U.S. consular official can provide information about the options and potential costs associated with repatriating the remains of the deceased to the United States. Navigating the often-complex regulations and laws governing the transport of human remains from one country to another can feel overwhelming for those grieving a death; the consular official can help make this process easier by conveying a family’s instructions to the appropriate individuals/offices abroad.
In addition, a U.S. consular official can inform you about how to transmit/transfer the funds necessary to return your loved one to the United States. Please understand that the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the embassy or consulate located in the country in which your loved one died, and the U.S. Department of State do not provide money to pay for the expenses incurred when repatriating the remains of your loved one to the United States. The surviving family must pay all expenses.
Next, when the deceased has no next-of-kin or legal representative present in the country in which he or she died, the U.S. consular official will assume responsibility for the deceased’s personal estate. Acting as a temporary “personal conservator,” the official will first collect the items owned by the deceased, such as clothing, jewelry, documents and paperwork, etc., and then create an inventory of these objects. After communicating with the next-of-kin or legal representative, the consular official will process these items per the instructions he or she receives.
Finally, as you might imagine, repatriating human remains to the United States from another country is subject to a myriad of laws and regulations. The disposition of the deceased individual is subject to both U.S. law and those of the country in which he or she died, as well as the customs requirements of both countries. An essential duty performed by a U.S. consular official is the preparation of the necessary paperwork to facilitate the shipment of the body/human remains to the United States.
Chief among these documents is the “Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad,” which is also called a “Consular Mortuary Certificate.” Based upon the death certificate issued in the country in which the death occurred, the “Consular Mortuary Certificate” provides, in English, essential information about the cause of death, and the disposition of the body/human remains and the deceased’s personal estate. The consular official can provide up to 20 certified copies of this document to the next-of-kin at no charge. Not only does the “Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad” help ensure a smoother shipment of the body/human remains back to the United States, but U.S. courts also recognize this official document when settling estate cases.
You can also use this guide to work on your own eulogy!