Book clubs
“Reader to the blind”

For five years I read to Milton & Jeane Perry, and became fast friends with them. When Milton passed away in 1995, I continued reading to Jeane for another five years until she moved to Washington, DC in 2001. Read a story I wrote, The Weekly Reader, about my time reading to them.

Almost 9 months to the day after she called me one day to ask me if I would consider writing and delivering her eulogy when it was time, I delivered it.

Because I wanted it to be about what she thought of her life—instead of what all of her family and friends thought about her life, as is the traditional approach—I spent one afternoon interviewing her, asking her questions, such as:

  • What would you consider your biggest accomplishment in life?
  • What is your most treasured memory?
  • What is the most frightened you’ve ever been in your life?

I captured all of her answers on a recorder, and I used them to devise her eulogy. Here’s the opening of it:

Eulogy for Jeane Wells Perry
May 27, 2008

Good afternoon.

This is from my journal entry, dated August 26, 2007:

One of my dear, dear friends in life left me a voice mail message yesterday, saying that she had something very important to ask me—that it wasn’t urgent, but that it was important. She went on to say that she wasn’t sure if it was inappropriate to ask me, and she wanted me to know that I had every right to decline, but she wanted to ask me anyway.

I returned her call this morning, and she asked me if I would devise and deliver her eulogy. I replied, “I know without a doubt that I can, and would love to, write it. It’s the delivery I’d be worried about, as I’d probably be crying throughout the whole thing.”

She laughed and replied, “As I said, I want you to feel perfectly fine about declining the request, but I can’t think of anyone else in the world I’d rather have do it. That article you wrote about me and Milton and Rhoda once, everyone who reads it comments on how beautifully written it is and how warm the sentiment in it is.”

After we hung up, I wrote her a card that said, “Dear Jeanie-Baby, Your request ranks as one of the highest honors in my life on this earth to date. Please be at ease knowing that no matter what I write, or how I deliver it, it will come from a heart and spirit that have been blessed by knowing you in our time here together. Thank you for the highest compliment and affirmation that one could receive as a writer, and the ultimate honor one could receive as a friend. I love you!” Read the rest…