From the Art of Manliness Eulogy for Alex:
Editor’s note: Ten days after his son, Alex, drove off a bridge and was killed in a car accident, Reverend William Sloane Coffin delivered the following sermon to his congregation at Riverside Church in New York City.
I was first introduced to this sermon years ago in a college communications course, and I have thought of it with surprising regularity ever since. Its presence in my mind has been so frequent, especially recently after the loss of a dear friend, that I finally decided to share it here. Not because our diverse readership will agree with all of its theological underpinnings, but because I think it offers wise advice on what to say (and not say) when someone dies tragically, a poignant window on the human experience, and a lesson in the art of effective rhetoric (hence why we were discussing it in a communications class). It’s just one of those things I think is worth a read by all. Actually, it’s even more worth a listen; it’s considerably more powerful in the oral form in which it was delivered, and the audio can be accessed here (1/23/1983)
As almost all of you know, a week ago last Monday night, driving in a terrible storm, my son — Alexander — who to his friends was a real day-brightener, and to his family “fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky” — my twenty-four-year-old Alexander, who enjoyed beating his old man at every game and in every race, beat his father to the grave.
Among the healing flood of letters that followed his death was one carrying this wonderful quote from the end of Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”: “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”
My own broken heart is mending, and largely thanks to so many of you, my dear parishioners; for if in the last week I have relearned one lesson, it is that love not only begets love, it transmits strength......
This is one of the most beautiful eulogies I have ever read.