Living Eulogies

Living Eulogies: Don’t wait to tell your heroes what you think of them.

On May 4th, 2019, popular progressive Christian author Rachel Held Evans died after a brief hospitalization. Though sometimes polarizing, in the wake of her death the enormity of her impact was clear. My Twitter feed turned into a litany of eulogies; moving tributes in 140 characters, testifying to a profoundly generous, kind, intelligent, Truth-Teller, ever on the side of the marginalized in society.

One prevailing theme in all of these tweets was this— don’t wait to tell your heroes how much they’ve impacted you. As I scrolled through my phone, I couldn’t help but think, “I hope she knew just how beautiful and powerful her life was—how deeply loved she is.”

This thought strikes me nearly every time someone like this passes, whether they existed in the public eye or just in my own community. Did they know how loved they were? How profound their impact was? How their existence will change how those they leave behind keep living? I’m sure many have some sort of grasp on what they mean to the people around them…but what if they don’t? The small chance that this could be possible leaves a lump in my throat.

What if we didn’t wait to pour out generous, extravagant, appreciation for the people who have impacted us? What if we risked the vulnerability and perhaps embarrassment of expressing our true thoughts to people?

There is a certain abandon that one speaks with in a eulogy. You don’t hold back a single generous thought—every kind word spills out as a memorial to one who has been truly loved. These thoughts and words are not new, they’ve been in the mind of the speaker throughout the duration of the relationship, though maybe not fully realized until that relationship changed with finality.

Speaker and author Ruthie Lindsay simply says, “if you see something beautiful in someone, speak it.” It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. How often do we observe something inspirational in someone and say nothing?

I say let’s change that. So here’s your homework: Write a letter to public figures who have changed your life. Send a message to an acquaintance who has impacted you. Text your friends and tell them what you love about them and, specifically, why their friendship is so important to you. Remind your family that you love them. For a moment, put the awkwardness or embarrassment or vulnerability to the side, and practice recognizing inspiring qualities in others, and calling them out with gratitude.

Make a practice of giving living eulogies, letting love and appreciation spill over from your mind through your lips—and make it one of your life’s most tenacious habits.