You don't have to listen to the hospice chaplain when he tells you that making remarks at your husband's funeral will be too hard

"You don't want to make things harder on yourself than they already are," said the kind and well-meaning hospice chaplain.

We were in my living room at our first -- and, I should say, last -- meeting. My terminally ill husband was in the other room, probably with one of the many friends who came to keep him company and give me a break from round-the-clock caregiving.

I had mentioned to the chaplain my intention to speak at my husband's funeral. We didn't know when it would be, but he had been diagnosed with a 13-month-average-lifespan brain cancer 6 or 7 months earlier, and had recently become a hospice patient. I had been kicking around what I wanted to say at his funeral for a while at that point – primarily when I went walking.

in college I used to compose papers in my head while walking from the US capitol to the lincoln memorial (and back). I could never have imagined that 20+ years later I’d fall back on that method — walking — to compose remarks for my 44-year-old husband’s funeral.

in college I used to compose papers in my head while walking from the US capitol to the lincoln memorial (and back). I could never have imagined that 20+ years later I’d fall back on that method — walking — to compose remarks for my 44-year-old husband’s funeral.

I should say, as an aside, that walking tends to be when I do my clearest thinking. It's when I wrote my best papers in college -- I'd head out on a couple-hour walk from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and back, and by the time I returned, I had composed a 5 or 10 page paper in my head. I just had to sit down and type it out.

So, I had been walking around the neighborhood composing funeral remarks in my head. That doesn’t sound weird to me these days, as I type it now … but I’m sure back when I was composing college papers on walks, I would never have imagined that someday I’d be taking that same approach when preparing to eulogize my 44-year-old husband.

I was 99% sure I wanted to do it. But, when the hospice chaplain tried to talk me out of it, I second-guessed myself. I mean, here was a guy who knew a lot more about death that I did. Maybe he knew something I didn’t? Maybe there was something I didn’t know about funerals that would make my plan impossible. Or unwise. Maybe I needed to listen to the “expert?”

I don’t know why he gave the advice he did. I suppose he typically worked with widows much older than I; maybe they don’t often make remarks at their husbands’ funerals. Maybe he just thought, “here’s this poor woman with two young kids, she doesn’t need one more thing on her plate.”

But, he didn’t know me. He didn’t know that I’d been blogging on Caringbridge since the beginning of my husband’s illness, sharing our journey with family and friends near and far. That 78 posts and 29,000 site visits later, I needed to speak to the people who’d been supporting us for so long. I needed to reflect on my husband’s life, and I needed to thank our community for their role in the hardest time of our family’s life.

And so, I thanked the chaplain for visiting, and we wound up the conversation. I was pretty sure I was going to ignore his advice, but a little part of me did keep wondering what this expert knew that I didn’t.

I’m proud to report that I did make remarks at my husband’s funeral. Parts of it I had been carrying around in my head for months, turning over ideas and refining wording at every chance I got. Parts of it came together in the final days before the funeral. All of it I was satisfied with; even as I re-read it now, 3 years later, I wouldn’t change a word.

Mostly, I am satisfied that I trusted myself on this one, and didn’t let the hospice chaplain talk me out of what I knew to be the right decision for me.