Dear Family Advisor

I'm afraid of what my sister will say about my eulogy for our father.

Last updated: Jul 05, 2011

outside, reflecting

My father's memorial service is coming up, and I'm trying to write a short eulogy about what he meant to me. I want it to be meaningful without making my oldest sister mad. She has always thought of me as the favorite because I'm the youngest. Well, I might have been Dad's favorite -- because through the years our relationship grew. We were similar, understood each other, and had the same sense of humor. He was beyond special to me, and I want to honor him at his memorial without having to hear her two cents' worth later or, worst of all, being treated like a leper at the reception. Since his death, we three kids have been edgy and oversensitive with one another.

I think the best way to handle this is to focus on what he meant to you personally. You don't have to announce to the world that the two of you had something special. I don't think love has to be compared or displayed publicly. Just say, "I felt so close to him." "I felt as if he understood me." If you use "I" and "I feel," your words won't imply that it was an exclusive relationship or that he didn't have feelings for his other children.

Then, even if you have to embellish it a bit, mention how he cared for each of his family members. This is a day when everyone should feel good about their relationship with your dad. Talk about what a great man he was to everyone, and how funny, generous, or wise he was.

Everyone's relationship with their parent is different, based on their personality, old hurts, memories, beliefs, and so on. What many people don't realize is that those are perceptions -- there is no "one way" it was for everyone. Do your best to be neutral, to share how you felt about him, and then stand in a place of quiet truth and love. That's all you can do.

Will your sister still find things to nitpick about? She might, but you won't have to "own" it. You'll know that you did the best you could.

The love and the bond you shared with your dad was a private part of your life, and it will remain important. So for all those personal things you'd like to say to him, write him a letter and pour your heart out. Bury it with him if you can, but keep a copy for yourself. For your own sake, and in honor of what the two of you had, use this letter to commemorate the special cord that ran between you.

Also consider buying a bench that you can put in your yard or donate to a park -- somewhere you can go to sit, to remember, to mourn, and then to heal. There's something wonderful about having a physical place to go to keep the memories alive. I know from my experience with my own dad, who has been gone for many years, that the sweetness remains.