The Last Word

Julia Cooper provides a lively examination of why the modern eulogy should rest in peace.

Julia Cooper

While eulogizing has always been an amateur's art, the continually mounting social pressure to repress any and all negative emotion has rendered the act of saying goodbye essentially meaningless. Julia Cooper examines how the social imperative to be happy lets us all down precisely at the darkest moment of our lives — immediately after a loved one's death.

Through insightful, surprisingly playful readings of famous eulogies — from a scene in Love Actually to Elton John's threnody song "Candle in the Wind" to Jacques Derrida's heart-rending essays on the deaths of his peers — Cooper argues against the culturally ingrained desire to avoid thinking about death that results in clichéd memorials. Artfully honouring our deceased intimates requires instead the courageous ability to honestly and bravely enter into our most distressing and complex emotions. With a light but provocative touch, Cooper suggests that in clawing out space for engaged grief, the eulogy may yet be revived from its current place as an item on a list of hasty actions or stages designed to run a quick course back to a "happy" normal; instead, the eulogy can be returned to its rightful place — as a moment for grief and reflection, and, of course, as an art. (From Coach House Books)