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How to Give a Good Eulogy

January 29, 2008 | 11 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I want to thank you for an article you posted on 6 or 7 years ago on how to deliver a eulogy. I wrote a note on it at the time, and when my Dad died this June, I had a chance to use it. He was a Depression-era guy from Pittsburgh, and he taught me that you get up every morning, go to work, and put food on the table. When a problem comes up, you sit down and immediately start to work on it. You bring down the deer with one shot. And when I was entering the Marines, he told me that if a bad order ever came down from above, that I should do whatever I needed to keep my men out of harm's way. He was a great man. Extremely smart, competent in a way that was never fully tested by the world, and lived a life of complete integrity. We were so happy that he hit a sweet spot at the end of his career and in his retirement. He loved his house in Arizona. And he loved being there with my mother. And he loved his ten grandchildren. He was a great father, and we loved him very much. He will be sorely missed.

Joseph M.
Gainesville, FL

You were a good son, Joseph, and I'm sure your eulogy was a great gift to your family and something they'll always remember. I was not such a good son, and when my dad died, in 2000, I could no more have given a eulogy than I could've jumped off a barn roof and flown across the yard. I sat, inert, brooding over my own thoughts, feeling guilty and miserable, wanting nothing more than to run out the door. So there's a little insight into the matter of good advice. Sometimes the people who give it are incapable of following it. Ponder that, my friend.


Very impressed by the honesty and objectivity of GK's reply. You would think a public speaker as reknown as GK would have no trouble "faking" his way through any sort of public forum, but even the greats have their achilles heel. His humility in recalling a painful event is most admirable.

Two times I have reacted to your comments with a cringe. Many months ago, you referred to the "Girl Scouts of America." A life member of Girl Scouts, I want to let you know that we are the "Girl Scouts of the USA." On the program Jan. 26, you talked about sitting in Seattle and viewing the ocean (though you used a synonym for "ocean"). That is geographically impossible and it shows those of us in the Pacific Northwest that one more person does not understand Washington state's geography. Someone in Seattle would be looking at Puget Sound. That body of water is never referred to as the ocean. I grew up in Bremerton, WA, across Puget Sound from Seattle. We had to drive for several hours westward to see the ocean! Please be aware of that so that you don't appear to be unintelligent or uninformed. Thanks for your program. It provides "soul food" for me every weekend.

Dear Mr. Keillor:

I've been noticing on the website for awhile now that the show is "seeking talented people in their twenties." Well, isn't everyone? With all the attention directed towards 'talented people in their twenties" like Britney, Paris, Lindsey, etc. I imagine it's only a matter of time before the search begins for talented preschoolers wailing about their rehab experiences for six figures.

I'd like to see a talent search for people who've lived. Those who've hit the speed bump of middle age, and finally realized that they have some talent too, even if it was just for survival.

I just attended a literary event in a southern clime that took for it's theme 'New Voices." What it really meant was 'Young Voices." When one of those voices confused the profane with being profound, and then referred to the audience numerous times as "you guys" well, I gave myself permission to skip the rest of the seminar and go sailing instead. I met an old salt who told me what tomorrow's weather would be from his observation of the mare's tail-shaped clouds. He told me about finding a body floating in the harbor one afternoon, and I knew the money I'd spent to be there had not been wasted

Today's birthday girl on the Writer's Almanac for Friday, 01 February was Muriel Spark, who published her first fiction at age 40. That gave me hope.

Yours sincerely,
Gayle Ray

Such heartfelt thoughts from Gainesville and to Gainesville.

Where might the rest of us find your eulogy article, Mr. Keillor?

The link didn't work in his message, if it was a link...

I look forward to your show every week.

What a great post regarding the eulogy for a wonderful father. You sum up beautifully the men who were our fathers who were born in the 1920's and 1930's. My dad, born in 1925 was all the elements mentioned in the eulogy, typified this kind of dad. He taught me the skills and ethics that serve me daily on in my career, and his compassion and knowledge were evident to all who knew him. Even after he died, the architectural firm that he headed as senior partner wanted to use his name for an additional 3 years because it spoke of trust and diligence.

Thanks again for including us in your eulogy. We are all the richer for it.

Thank you so much for posting Joseph's note to you. In this love for his dad and family, those reflections... grant us the present... illumined insights.
Joseph's offering gives you and the rest of us an opportunity to honor our parents and family. I commend you for your honesty... now, go... jump off the highest tiered roof 'n fly... on the wings of... prayer 'n recollections... knowing we are touched by forgiveness 'n Beloved grace.


I first heard your name a couple of years ago. I don't know much about this show, but I am wondering - are you a republican?

I don't have an opinion on either phonics or the whole-language approach - actually I have never heard of the whole-language approach and have no idea what it is. I learned to read because my grandmother sat next to me on our old green sofa and opened a story book. She read each line to me so that I could see what she was reading. We went through that book, and then we went to another, day after day. It was the simplest of approaches, and it worked. My brothers and I all read long before we entered first grade.

This was in the days before computers, and our TV only got two channels, so there weren't many distractions. There were two newspapers in the house every day, and many, many books. Reading was important and loved because my family deemed it so.

I have no children but both my brothers do, and I am happy that their children learned to read at an early age also. I cannot comprehend how this most basic learning skill is not being encouraged & taught in families, never mind schools.

Mr. Keillor:I've been meaning to thank you for your continued efforts to promote RHUBARB on your program. Like Rabbit, Terrapin,Shad Roe and Finnan Haddie, I feared that RHUBARB was disappearing from the American Palate.Cafe food servers often look quizzically at me now when I ask for Rhubarb pie. I suppose the younger generation considers Rhubarb to be a depression-era food that we no longer need to fill out our daily diet.
I was first introduced to the benefits of Rhubarb by my mother in the '50's, who served it to us as a warm sauce for breakfast. It kept her children VERY regular in regard to their G.I. systems. Thanks so much for keeping Rhubarb in your audiences' conscience. Respectfully, Daren Kelly

Thanks, Garrison. I am a Democrat, the proud son of a retired teacher, the proud grandson of another retired teacher, and the parent of a 3rd grader and a kindergardener. I love teachers and have great respect for them. But it frustrates me to no end that any attempt whatsoever to suggest that some sort of accountability should be built into the system is met with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Mr. Keillor:
That challenge to the "whole language" crowd took some courage! I became aware of the controversy back in the 80's when my children were in school and decided to make some challenges of my own to our local education establishment. Wow! Did I get smacked down! I am a conservative, so I was not sacrificing any personal credibility, but for an old liberal like yourself, that is a difficult position to take.

If you want to REALLY take on the education establishment, challenge their right to teach evolution as "fact" instead of "theory". I do not object to the teaching of evolution in public schools, but to teach it as "Holy Writ" and come totally unglued when some of their evidence gets challenged is intellectually dishonest to say the least.

By the way, I heard a news report on NPR about how the Secular Humanists want to establish themselves as a Church (or church alternative) with the rights to perform marriages, funerals, non-worship services, or whatever you do when you don't believe in a diety. Since evolution is a main tenet of belief for their athiestic theology, does that make evolution a religious doctrine now? We all know how hostile the education establishment is toward teaching religion in public schools. I am waiting for someone to do some exploratory probing into this situation. If we can get this controversy started, we will be publicly entertained for at least a month.
Ron Bensink

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