Family Matters

Family Matters

The Last Word: The difficulties of summing up a lifetime

By Christopher Loeffler

July/August 2007

Looking back, I wish I'd been more aware and more gracious. When my brother and I agreed that I'd deliver a eulogy upon our mother's death, I was confronted with many emotions. With the wisdom of hindsight, I wonder whether I should have known better than to commit to such a delicate and thankless task. I now realize that both filial and fraternal pridefulness drove me to concoct the presentation I made on that warm Virginia day back in July 2002.

As my mother's eldest son, I grew up in a privileged position. Actually, it was more entitled than privileged. The movie Prince of Tides comes to mind when I think of my position in the family. Similar to the boys in that twisted tale of maternal duplicity, my brothers and I were successively downgraded as the years went by.

My two sisters suffered in comparison to us, even with our diminished status. As a therapist, I came to understand that this spiral was more a reflection of my mother's separation difficulties than our own. But the impact was still strong and enduring. Our mother was complicated. She was clever and witty, but she was also fiery, melodramatic, and accustomed to center stage. I wanted to do her justice in the eulogy, but there were other, less conscious, motives at play.

How does one say goodbye to his mother? How is anyone supposed to deliver a truthful eulogy? Does truth even enter into it? These complicated questions occupy me even now. But at the time of my mother's death, my…

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