We Should Eulogize People Before a Person Dies

There was a time during my tenure as a Chief of Staff when quite a few of our doctors died. Attending the funerals wasn’t that uncommon, but that time seemed like more than usual. I attended most of them, not ex officio, but because they were my friends. The ceremonies differed in the religion, style, location. But every one of them included a eulogy.

And each time, listening to the ceremonial music, a litany of funeral marches played in my mind.

Many composers wrote that type of music. Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Mahler. They all wrote the masterpieces. But Chopin wrote the one which moves me the most. The simple three-part structure, the first and third in minor, the second in the pastoral, happy major. When the parts in a minor scale portray grief for the deceased, the second part describes joy from the well-lived life. The composition is magnificent in its simplicity. A superb example of Polish music.

So all the eulogies reminded me of the second part of Chopin’s Funeral March. All the speakers said how great the person was. A good husband, a great father, and an incomparable doctor. They described glorious moments and funny moments in his––I don’t remember any women––life. But there was one problem. The person, to whom all these tributes were directed, this person couldn’t hear them. Maybe even he didn’t know how wonderful his life was.

At the next General Staff meeting, I told the doctors that every person, including me, would rather hear all the accolades when we are still alive. This could make our days.

I still don’t know if I’ve changed any minds. Certainly, in my case, I hadn’t heard any more prizes. Maybe there weren’t many to begin with. Well, no matter.

But Chopin’s Funeral March is still my favorite.


  • Excellent words and good point to ponder. More than that… tell people what they mean to you while you have the opportunity. The people on hospice who are very old (oldest guy I see currently is 104) are often heard to ask why they are still here? I tell them that with every breath they take in this life they retain the authority as well as the opportunity to speak in to the lives of people who cross their path. They never fully understand what is going on in another person’s life so what they tell them may make all the difference in their world. Each day is a gift and
    we are each responsible for how we use it.

  • Teresa told me about this eulogy in parting from your workplace. A beautiful time of tribute and so personal that it could not be shared with anyone but your partner in life. I understand. You are an amazing man who has touched so many lives with your words and with your skills as a surgeon. God has blessed you and God blessed those who have the opportunity to know you in whatever measure allowed.


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