Death of alcoholic friend with 2 kids - funeral speech advice

(12 Posts)
JustTryEverything Sun 27-Oct-13 19:35:20

I am looking for any shared experiences anyone may have on dealing with, and speaking at, funerals that are not remembering your old maiden aunt who lived a long and happy life, but a person who ultimately died in tragic and desperate circumstances.

My friend's mental health issues and chronic alcoholism meant that he appeared to be a horrible, selfish, pathetic excuse of a person at the end who ignored his kids and his friends and spent many tens of thousands of pounds that should have been for his kids, living in a shit hole of a house that not even an industrial cleaning company would accept the job.

However, there is definitely the previous life which should be celebrated when he was an amazing husband, father, friend and all round decent human being.

I am godmother to his 2 kids - now 13 and 11 and he had been dealing with mental health issues that resulted in the breakdown of his marriage (to my chief bridesmaid) and a rather quick decline into chronic alcoholism and, ultimately and inevitably, his death just 4 years after we first knew something was wrong.

His funeral is on Friday and it feels appropriate for me to offer something to the service but I'm not sure if I should acknowledge the elephant in the room along the lines of "the last few years are not what we want to remember of him so here are my memories of him before the difficult times" but his kids will be there so I am really torn.

There is only a distant sister on his family side (who I've never met but have spoken to when the mental health issues were ongoing) and, as his wife and him never finalised their divorce, she is still the next of kin and is working on the funeral arrangements.

Any advice or thoughts would be very welcome. Sorry for the ramble.

gussiegrips Sun 27-Oct-13 19:45:54

This is a lovely thing you are doing - and, I am sorry for the loss of your friend.

The kids are old enough to understand the impact their dad's alcoholism has had on their lives, well, they've lived it. So, I agree, a tactful way of acknowledging the issue whilst finding something to cherish in his character would seem fitting - avoiding the fact that he struggled with booze would, perhaps, be disingenuous?

What about googling quotes about "flaws"? Shakespeare had a few, and Mitch Alborm in "Tuesdays with Morrie" has some really lovely insights into love, human frailty and that mistakes are what make us human.

Good luck. Happy to help proof read if you want it.

saffronwblue Mon 28-Oct-13 09:52:19

You sound like a lovely friend. I think it is really important to describe a person that the family recognises, rather than a fake eulogy.
My uncle died after a lifetime of mental health issues which had enormous impact on his family. When my cousins spoke about him at his service they acknowledged that "dad had demons". They talked a bit about his childhood which was dreadful and they also talked about his passions and what he cared about. It was a very honest service and afterwards the funeral director congratulated them on not leaving the elephant in the room.

Maybe you could talk about the lovely person he was when you knew him, the hopes and dreams he had yet how his demons were too strong for him and how as his friends, you will help his children fight the demons that everyone struggles with?

Have a look at Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold as a beautiful poem about struggle.

I just googled quotations - flaws and got this from To Kill a Mockingbird

^Naw, Jem. I think that there is just one kind of folks. Folks."

Jen turned and punched his pillow. WHen he settle back his face was cloudy. He was going in to one of his declines, and I grew wary. His brows came together; his mouth became a thin line. He was silent for a while.

That is what I thought, too," he said at last, "when I was your age. If there is just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go ut of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I am beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley stayed shut up in the house all this time...it's because he wants to stay inside”^

Tommy Mon 28-Oct-13 09:57:51

I went to a very sad funeral of a 24 year old who died after drug use - the sermon was excellent..... will try and remember. It was something about recognising that all of us fail but that when we die we are all equal again (it was a priest so would have been equal before God or something like that so maybe no appropriate here but the sentiment was suitable)

You can't pretend that he didn't have his problems nor that they affected his family.

Will try and remember....

sybilfaulty Mon 28-Oct-13 10:06:49

I am very sorry for your loss.

My best friend died in similar circumstances 2 years ago after a fairly short battle with drink. She left 2 boys who were then 12 and 10. At her funeral, her sister bravely took on the eulogy and spoke about the many happy times we had all had with her. She then spoke briefly of the problem years and said that there was one thing bigger than X which she could not conquer. The vicar also spoke about her life, again concentrating on the good times but also addressing the bad years and expressing her belier that X was now at peace.

I think the difficulty with alcoholism is that it seems to be self imposed, when really it is an illness as much as, say, cancer. As his boys are older it would be odd not to mention the problems, perhaps acknowledging the difficulties it caused for them.

I think Dover Beach is a wonderful suggestion. 2 other friends read at X's funeral and we had prayers and a Bible reading as well.

Feel free to ask anything - happy to help. Sending you best wishes.

JuliaScurr Mon 28-Oct-13 10:12:08

Maybe remember the lovely person who lost the fight? That's how we remember those we lose to eg cancer; addiction is also a disease, not a sign of weak character.
I was reminded of www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxHnRfhDm

JuliaScurr Mon 28-Oct-13 10:13:00

Vincent by Don MacLean

couragetothewellies Mon 28-Oct-13 10:24:52

Have namechanged for this as still not something I like to talk about.

My mother drank herself slowly and painfully. At her funeral the celebrant didn't attempt to canonise her but didn't talk about the drink.
Believe me none of us needed to be reminded of that then or now.

What was said was little things of her love for all us even if it was very very minor examples. It's very hard to believe someone who drinks to death felt anything other than about the next glass so any little anecdote helped.

Sorry for your loss. Hope the family have access to www.al-anonuk.org.ukalanon

saffronwblue Mon 28-Oct-13 10:24:55

At FiL's funeral DH read Say not the Struggle Nought Availeth which is applicable in lots of different contexts.

Tommy Mon 28-Oct-13 10:31:01

just spoke to my priest friend who did the funeral I mentioned and he said he'd quoted from the film Trainspotting about making choices..... I don't know the film but may be worth looking at.
So hard isn't it? Speak from the heart - that's the best thing to do in all situations like this I've found thanks

ThePost Mon 28-Oct-13 10:44:01

Are any of these appropriate?

Clutterbugsmum Mon 28-Oct-13 10:53:53

What about We are Human. We had it for my Dads funeral.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now