My husband is writing a eulogy.  He showed me a first draft and I was blown away. In a few paragraphs, he managed to evoke a woman we both loved, and communicate the depth of his feelings for her.

The power of his eulogy came as a surprise.  He is an intelligent, well-spoken person who writes quite a lot, but the majority of what he writes is scientific and technical.  The remainder of his written communications are probably comprised of emails, grocery lists, and thoughts jotted on post-it notes.

We could discuss what made his eulogy work so well (specific details, including those that revealed the complexity of her character, rather than just praise, humor, sharing of himself…), but I suspect he wrote such a powerful piece because he felt so strongly about his subject.

Sometimes memories and thoughts can’t become vivid, even in our own minds, until they’re typed out.

I am not one of those people who believe writers should only write about things they have experienced or things they have strong feelings about.  Surely not!  Imagination and empathy are powerful tools. A writer can be a generally happy, fulfilled individual and compose heartbreaking stories. Similarly, one can write of great joy while in the doldrums.

Still, my husband’s eulogy writing experience has been instructive. We all experience triumphs and tragedies over the course of our lives, including death of loved ones. For our own mental health, it’s important to dwell on both our joys and our losses. For writers, especially those who hope to create emotionally engaging stories and characters, spending some time with sorrow might be essential.

If you’re given the opportunity to write a eulogy, take it, whether you consider yourself a writer or not.  You won’t regret the hours spent reflecting on a person you held dear, and the chance to crystalize your memories through words.

You might impress your wife. You’ll probably surprise yourself. Sometimes memories and thoughts can’t become vivid, even in our own minds, until they’re typed out.

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