I started giving eulogies for my grandparents’ funerals back in the 1980s. I had attended the funeral of an aged great uncle, and the service was led by a minister who clearly didn’t know the deceased. The preacher made a few remarks about Uncle Walt and then segued into a little sermon that would have applied to me, the person sitting beside me, or the next person to walk in the door. It was that vague.
And so, when my grandmother Bradley died, I stepped up to the pulpit and tried to tell the story of her life and what she meant to us. I have since done that for five relatives. Having a non-clergy person conduct a funeral is sort of like the talking dog–it’s not what he says as much that he does it at all. These performances are emotional high wire walking, but when you can pull it off without falling apart the experience is enormously satisfying.