Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What to Say at Your Brother's Funeral

I get a lot of hits from people searching for something to say at their brother's funeral. Coincidentally enough, I was faced with this exact same problem recently, though I have to admit it never occurred to me to turn to Google. Instead, I fretted and procrastinated and talked incessantly about how I had no clue what the hell I was going to say. How do you sum up someone else's life when you spent a good portion of it fighting with them? What words could possibly help your mother and your father and all your brother's friends on the worst day of their lives? How do you say goodbye to someone you never thought would leave?

The pressure was too much. I decided I wasn't going to say anything at all, then changed my mind, then changed it back. In the end, I wrote something down the morning of, partly because I knew I'd feel bad if I didn't, and partly because my mother's been telling everyone for years what a great writer I am, and what practical use is a writer in the family if you can't use her at times like this?

So yes, I've been through it, but if you've just lost a brother and came here looking for help or advice, I don't have much. You can read what I said here, and feel free to use it, but cream puffs may not resonate quite the same way with your family. Instead, say something that's going to make you feel better. Your brother is dead and your family loves you, so it doesn't matter what comes out of your mouth. Just make sure it means something to you, because later that night, when you're crying in your mother's house, it'll only matter that you got up there and said out loud what you maybe haven't said enough in life - that you love your brother, and that you'll miss him now that he's gone.


cynthia said...

most people cannot write very well. hell, they've been raised on hallmark greeting cards, so we can't blame them. also, they haven't been running monologues in their minds since birth, telling stories just below out loud, or even out loud if alone in the woods or an empty house (except those boys who do play-by-plays when they are shooting baskets or coming up to the plate), so most people just don't have the practice developing their voice and their confidence in it.

but there is something about speaking from the heart that transports everyday utterances into poetry. if you have never gone to an Anonymous meeting of any kind, you may not have noticed this. at Anonymous meetings there are these things called pitches. people stand up and "pitch" whatever is on their minds. it's always a story of desperation and redemption or something in between. and these pitches, straight from the heart, are brilliant. they have natural beginnings, middles, and ends. they use metaphor or simile. the voice is unique and pure and consistent. there is a palpable spiritual quality. it's as if we each have an eloquent soul that bursts forth when we tell the truth, under a little pressure.

so those of you who must make a speech about your lost loved one, i advise simply thinking about him or her for a while and then, the morning of the event, lock yourself up with pencil and paper and trust in your heart, your truth, and your soul. you will say what needs to be said. and it will be worthy of you and the one you have lost.

cynthia said...

and as for your words at ky's funeral. if kyle was able to listen or watch, he loved it and was comforted by it--as i was--hearing you both capture the truth about him and 'fess up to your own part in the complicated thing that is a loving brother-sister relationship.

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