Monday, January 4, 2010

thinking ahead

[NB: If you haven't seen the IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT, please do so.]

Dad was up much earlier than I was, and has been on the phone all day with various people-- friends and folks who know something about hospice arrangements.

According to Dad, it's not looking good for homebound hospice care. Some of the organizations providing such care want two to three weeks' notice before they can move equipment to a given house. Others are unable to provide ventilator-related services. Even with institutional hospices, there are hurdles. Moving Mom anywhere promises to be logistically and bureaucratically difficult.

So for now, Mom remains in the Walter Reed Army Medical Center ICU. We'll be seeing her soon; first, I need to hit the local post office to pick up two Christmas parcels. They would have arrived in time for Christmas, had it not been for the snowstorm.* Both are gifts for Dad.

Later today, I'll begin gathering photos for my project: the creation of visual tributes for Mom. Most likely, the blog will eventually link to a slide show with hundreds of scanned and digicam photos of her life. Those same data files will also be turned into a PowerPoint presentation that, with the proper digital projector, can be shown at any given venue. And finally, physical photos will be needed for a walk-by display-- something a bit more old-school for people who prefer their pictures to have some heft and reality to them, as opposed to being mere wispy photons.

There are other projects as well. Before I discuss the specifics of memorial service arrangements with my pastors, I need to run by several scenarios with Dad and my brothers. I already know that Mom wouldn't have wanted pageantry, but I also know that there were things in life that she loved, such as the classical music that both David and Sean provided through years of violin, viola, cello, and piano playing. (Sean has been a professional cellist for several years.) Such elements should be a proper part of Mom's memorial service.

Finally, I need to start working on a eulogy. I've gone back and forth on this idea: on one hand, a eulogy is a printed document that allows the emotionally distraught speaker to coast through his speech, using printed words as a crutch. On the other hand, a printed eulogy, one that's well-planned, allows the speaker to say everything he thinks should be said. The danger of speaking extemporaneously is that one might meander and become forgetful, so overwhelmed with directionless emotion that it becomes impossible to voice the most important things. No eulogy can ever do full justice to the person being eulogized, but every loved one who speaks on behalf of the dead has an obligation to honor that person as well as possible.

Of course, there's no real "right" or "wrong" way to approach eulogies. You go with what works for you. For me, I suspect a written speech will be best. But I may change my mind.

Those are our projects, both for today and the days to come.

*Whatever happened to "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" (see here)?



Charles said...

Having no personal frame of reference, I can only imagine what you must be going through right now, but I thought I'd comment on the idea of a eulogy. It may just be my love of the written word, but I don't see prepared texts as crutches that allow a speaker to coast through a speech. I always prepare something when speaking in public for precisely the reason that you mentioned--whenever I speak extemporaneously, I always manage to leave something out.

At the same time, I can understand why you might chafe at the idea of a eulogy--you may be thinking it could come off as cold and stilted. While I don't think anyone would blame you for reading something prepared in advance, how you feel about it is important. Perhaps you can come to a compromise. Write a eulogy, but allow yourself to stray from it if you feel like it. What I often do is prepare an outline of what I want to say, rather than a complete text, which both allows me to keep on topic and also benefit from on-the-spot inspiration.

On a side note, it's interesting that you should mention the "neither snow nor rain..." bit. I was just reading an interesting web page on this very passage:

Kevin Kim said...

I think "crutch" is the appropriate concept here when talking about a eulogy. When you're up in front of a bunch of people, fighting to stay mentally and emotionally coherent, written words give your scattered mind something fixed to hang on to-- a step-by-step way to get through each sentence. Without those words on the page, it's a lot easier to fly off the tracks and end up making no sense.

Some people can hold it together even when eulogizing loved ones, and those folks might not have any problem saying all that they want to say. Not having done this sort of thing before (I have only one mother, after all, so there have been no practice runs), I have no idea how I might fare. Instinctively, I suspect the written word will work better for me; eloquence will be hard to find while I'm sobbing.

woodarty said...

Kevin, I hope to get to see Suk, but may not make it. I have been thinking a lot about your whole family and just how much you all mean to me.
I am the eldest in my family. We didn't expect my father's death, but I was there when it happened. Most of our family shared stories at his remembrance service, but I gave the closest thing to a eulogy. First I asked what others might wish me to include and then I added my own more personal comments. I never really wrote it out, but had 3x5 cards to help me keep on track.
Of course, my father's death can't compare with your mother's death. My father was past the age most of us expect to die. That's easier to accept. Still, I was very close to him. At the service and afterwards in cards and letters I learned of all sorts of things he had done for people that I didn't know about.That, more than anything else, helped me come to terms with his death. And he lives on. Just today Lisa wrote me something that was part of his legacy to her.
Your mother has enriched many lives, including mine. She'll continue to influence our lives.
I love you all. K