“Don’t Send Me Flowers When I’m Dead”: The Gift of a Living Eulogy

In 2003, when I was 23 years old and my Nana was 79, I wrote a humorous piece about her that I titled, “Nana Banana.” Half-ode, half-roast, it served as a living eulogy to honor one of the women who raised me.

Nan talked about death a lot. It was alarming to me as a kid, and annoying to me as a young adult. “Nan, stop! Jeez, stop talking about dying!” In addition to planning her own funeral in detail and bemoaning the fact that she was still alive each day for the last ten years of her life, one of her recurring statements was, “Don’t send me flowers when I die if you don’t send me flowers now.” In lieu of flowers, I wrote a little tribute piece to Nan and presented it to her. A lot of it was tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at her habits and, as she would call them, “peccadilloes.”

Nan laughed with body-shaking laughter the first time she read it. She then folded the document in half and stuffed it into the cushion of her chair (which we called her “nest”), proudly pulling it out to share with company and visitors for years to come. Very often she would read excerpts aloud and chuckle in her chair. She kept that piece in her nest until she died in 2018, three days shy of her 94th birthday.

Over the years, I got to see that little amateur writing make an old woman smile. She felt seen and felt loved and was so proud to have been the subject of her granddaughter’s writing.

This is the sort of gift I think we should give more of.

Over countless funerals and eulogies and speeches at memorial services, I hear people share with a room full of people things they never shared with their deceased loved one.

And that shouldn’t be.

It can be hard to express true appreciation for someone close to us, especially if they also happen to drive us nuts. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

Think of 5-10 people close to you. If one of them died RIGHT NOW- would they know how you feel about them? What you admire and appreciate about them? How they impacted your life? The special place they hold in your memories?

If not, pick one. And write. It can be sappy and sweet or lovingly smartass. It can be three lines or 30. But they need to hear it. And you need to say it. Get some things down on paper and present them to this person ASAP. While they are still here to read it.

Below are some prompts to get you writing:

What I’ve always loved about you is…

The funniest memory I have of you is…

You taught me…

I will always remember…

I love when you…

Your cutest quirk is…

Something I begrudgingly like about you is…

I so appreciate your…

Get writing. While they are still here to read it.  

Published by Angela Dora Dobrzynski

My name is Angela Dora Dobrzynski. I'm a professional counselor, and am passionate for all things personal development and human behavior. I specialize in grief and life transitions, with a special interest in health and stress psychology, emotional resilience and utilizing strengths as the basis of personal development. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Pennsylvania. I have a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Rosemont College and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Stockton University. Additionally, I hold a certificate in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and was granted a certificate in NonProfit Leadership From Arcadia University’s School of Continuing Education as well as a certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from Bryn Mawr School of Social Work. My professional experience includes work in the hospice of a major local healthcare system, Women's Resource Center, The Renfrew Center, Manor College and Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. I am a member of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. In my personal life I spend time kayaking, writing, gardening and connecting with my loved ones.

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