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What a Deadline Can Teach You

February 24, 2009

There are deadlines and then there are deadlines.

In life, and in writing, most of the deadlines we encounter are suggestions. If we miss a deadline there may be explanation or bargaining, but there’s usually accommodations to be made. Even the deadlines that are strict are often just not that important. If I miss a contest deadline, the worst that happens is that I miss the contest—maybe a little disappointing, but no tragedy.

Occasionally we’ll come across a deadline written in stone, that is just too important to miss. The way we react to that challenge can tell us a lot about the kind of writers we are. This was where I found myself this Friday past.

Last week a close family friend died. The morning of his funeral, as I slipped on my black suit my cell phone chimed. It was my friend’s 17-year-old son. The night before the funeral several family members had decided that they would be unable to deliver a eulogy. So since I had experience writing, he was calling me to ask for my help in writing a eulogy, and to read it at his father’s funeral.

Checking my watch, I saw that the funeral was in about an hour. And most of that would be spent in transit. And he wanted something moving, something special.

So that’s an hour on the move, with no prep, to write a eulogy, at the personal request of the son of the deceased.

No pressure, right? But if you could say no, I don’t want to know you.

Frankly I had no idea how I would meet that challenge. It was a hectic car ride, with my sweetie both taking dictation, and cell surfing for a suitable quote or two to toss in for good measure.

I thought the finished product was rather good, if a little difficult to read. After the burial, several members of the family approached me, thanked me for my words, and asked for a copy of the eulogy. And that was the best result I could have hoped for.

Do I think this makes me a great writer, or that I have ice water in my veins? No. But I do know that if given a near impossible deadline, I can rise to the challenge.

Farewell Rob. A great many people will miss your laughter.

  1. February 24, 2009 7:13 am

    oh man!!! You are so blessed to have the presence of mind to put words together like that in such a time of stress – which is exactly why you were asked.
    Isn’t it nice for our gifts to be used for good sometimes?

  2. February 24, 2009 5:58 pm

    Wow, that is quite an effort. But you’re right, you couldn’t have turned that down. I suppose events like that really teach people what they’re capable of.

  3. February 25, 2009 1:51 am

    Wow, it was so nice of you to put something together like that. You are blessed. I don’t think I could put something really special together in such a short amount of time. I’d still try though.

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