Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How to Deliver a Eulogy for a Fallen or Pushed Coworker

Occasionally in your hurry to sign an office “Get Well” card with such thoughtless remarks as “Your ass would look so good on my face,” you’ll fail to inquire as to the actual cause for said card. But maybe if you had taken the extra second to flip to the card’s front you would have noticed the adorable illustration of an angel rising from a now empty iron lung. You would have seen the cute black & white photo of two kids dressed in adults clothes from the 1930’s, each holding bright pink flowers as one turns to the other and says, “It’s inoperable.” You would have noticed that the entire card is made out of black ribbon and drenched in copious tears.

As I’ve mentioned before, employment is full of hard truths. And another of those is that at some point you will lose a coworker to illness or an accident. Usually it’s someone you never met or spoke to only once in an elevator. In such cases you’re simply expected to maintain a melancholic air and keep all jokes and boisterous laughter to a minimum for a day or two.

But sometimes the departed is someone you worked with on a daily basis. Or someone with whom you regularly went out to lunch. Or even someone you reported to. Under those circumstances you will be required to do more than just pretend to look down in thought whenever the deceased’s name is mentioned. You must also show a noticeable level of actual grief. Trouble is, few people can ever feel true remorse unless it’s in response to their own grave misfortune. (Remember that time you thought you had another beer in the fridge but you didn’t? Now’s the time to recall that wrenching despair!)

You will also almost certainly be required to attend the funeral. (Half day!) And, if bad luck is truly frowning on you, you may even be asked to say a few words about the deceased. Alas, this is the very moment you’ll realize that apart from who still owes you money for Chinese take-out yesterday and which people clearly do not dress for their figure, you don’t know a damn thing about anyone you work with.

Fear not. No one knows anything about anyone in their office, save the people their sleeping with or trying to build a case against for dismissal. That means as long as you get the name and gender right you can say practically anything in your funeral and everyone but the deceased’s closest relatives will quietly nod in agreement.

Now a good eulogy is a lot like a good cover letter. It requires a powerful opening statement. Something that will snap the mourners out of their own little worlds and the elderly out of their deep sleep. Here are a few eulogy introductions that have always proven lifesavers for me through the years.

“I lost more than just a bet today…”

“Is it me or does she look even hotter dead than when she was alive?”

“This is kind of ironic, considering that Shannon was always the life of the party.”

“We all knew this day would come. In fact, we had several months to prepare for it, ever since Bob broke the news that he had bought a pet bear.”

“Let this be a lesson to all you kids. A gun is not a sex toy.”

“’Better him than me’ may sound like a callous remark, but hear me out…”

“Maura’s death came as a complete surprise, especially after all those expensive pilot lessons she took.”

“I loved him like a brother. But I fucked him like an uncle.”

“At least Ben died doing what he loved most—getting into tense standoffs with police.”

“I believe God has a purpose for almost everyone on earth. And for those he doesn’t, he simply takes them back. Like Phil here…”

“Man, doesn’t anyone know how to perform autoerotic asphyxiation properly?"

“Doesn’t Steve look just like himself? After all, he always did wear too much foundation.”

“I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead. So instead I direct the following remarks to Sid’s wife and kids…”

“Why? Why do the good always die young but a cocksucker like Danny here lives to the ripe old age of 93?”

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