Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson recited her brother’s eulogy during the Apple CEO’s funeral held several weeks ago. The touching words were published in The New York Times this weekend. Composing a speech worthy of a visionary like Jobs seems like an impossible task, but Simpson’s able words tell the story of a man who had a passionate hunger for knowledge, was dedicated to his family and loved ones, and never stopped following his own path. ” … What I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away,” Simpson writes. It’s an intimate look into the late Pixar exec’s life and final days that paints an inspiring portrait of the “absolutist” and “romantic.”
We’ve gathered several other impassioned and inspirational eulogies past the break. Some will make you laugh before crying, while others are a tad confusing, but hopefully these words move you as much as they did us.
Lee Strasberg’s eulogy to Marilyn Monroe
Prestigious acting teacher and director of the Actors Studio, Lee Strasberg, gave screen icon Marilyn Monroe’s eulogy in 1962. Strasberg helped train the legendary star and noted, “The dream of her talent, which she had nurtured as a child, was not a mirage.” Norma Jean had a troubled childhood — spending most of it in foster homes — but her young modeling career eventually led to screen stardom, which was sadly cut short after her suicide. As Strasberg points out, “In her own lifetime she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain.”
President Reagan’s national eulogy to the Space Shuttle Challenger crew
When the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart and exploded during its mission in 1986, its seven-person crew didn’t survive the accident — including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space. Because of this, there were many young students across the nation watching the launch on television who witnessed the disaster. President Reagan was due to give his State of the Union address that day, but instead gave a national eulogy in honor of the Challenger crew. He directly addressed schoolchildren everywhere, saying:
“I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”
Oprah Winfrey’s eulogy to Rosa Parks
Alabama native and African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person in 1955. She was arrested for her brave disobedience, but her actions prompted the Montgomery Bus Boycott — led by a young Martin Luther King Jr. Parks was a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, and after her death she was honored for her courage and humility. Oprah Winfrey spoke about these traits in her eulogy to Parks in October, 2005: “I would not be standing here today nor standing where I stand every day had she not chosen to sit down,” Winfrey said. “I know that. I know that. I know that. I know that, and I honor that. Had she not chosen to say we shall not — we shall not be moved.”
Eric Idle’s eulogy to George Harrison
Monty Python’s Eric Idle delivered a warmhearted, candid eulogy about his friend, Beatle George Harrison, who was posthumously inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2002. As imagined, Idle’s trademark humor starts the eulogy with, “When they told me … my first thought was — ‘I bet he won’t show up.'” Idle focused his speech on the man that Harrison was, not the legendary music group he was part of — a reminder that not ever pop culture icon has an ego of similar stature. “He was one of those odd people who believe that life is somehow more important than show business,” Idle mused.
Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer’s eulogy to Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales
Like Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson, Charles Spencer had to deliver his sister’s eulogy in 1997 after Princess Diana was fatally injured in a car crash. Her death devastated the nation — even though many never stepped foot near the Princess — but Spencer’s eulogy reminded the world why friends, family, and strangers alike were always honored by her presence:
“Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity, a standard-bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a truly British girl who transcended nationality, someone with a natural nobility who was classless, who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.”
Cher’s eulogy to Sonny Bono
Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” has been giving everyone warm fuzzies since 1965, but it’s clear that the heartwarming times Cher shared with her former husband and musical partner Sonny Bono lasted long after that. After the former Mayor of Palm Springs passed away following a skiing accident, Cher shared a few tearfully sweet memories about the 70’s icon: ” … I’ve been writing this stupid eulogy for the last 48 hours. And, of course, I know that this would make Sonny really happy. It’s like Den said: ‘He got the last laugh.'”
Jawaharlal Nehru’s eulogy to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Pacifist leader Gandhi — a crucial figure in the Indian independence movement — was assassinated at a prayer meeting in 1948. The peacekeeper had survived five previous unsuccessful attempts on his life. Despite the eventual violent aftermath following his death, Gandhi’s successor Jawaharlal Nehru — India’s first Prime Minister — addressed the nation by radio with his emotional eulogy, urging citizens to remain faithful to the leader’s ideals.
“The first thing to remember no wish that no one of us dare misbehave because we’re angry. We have to behave like strong and determined people, determined to face all the perils that surround us, determined to carry out the mandate that our great teacher and our great leader had given us, remembering always that if, as I believe, his sprit looks upon us and sees u, nothing would displease his soul so much as to see that we have indulged in any small behaviour or any violence.
So we must not do that. But that does not mean that we should be weak, but rather that we should in strength and in unity face all the troubles and difficulties and conflicts must be ended in the face of this great disaster. A great disaster is a symbol to us to remember all the big things of life and forget the small things, of which we have thought too much.”
Edward Champion’s eulogy to Stanley Kubrick
Iconic director Stanley Kubrick received a gracious farewell from Edward Champion, when the filmmaker noted his respect and idolization of the Full Metal Jacket director. “He was a Dostoevsky, a Melville and a Tolstoy all rolled up in one,” Champion said of Kubrick. Even though The Shining director was known to be ” Uncompromising, meticulous,” and worse, Champion reiterated his personal connection to the moviemaker, which rings true for aspiring cineastes across the world: “There were other filmmakers that inspired me, who showed me how to work with the film form in the way in which they executed a scene or accomplished a shot. But it was Kubrick that showed me how the film worked as a whole.”
Collin Farrell’s eulogy to Elizabeth Taylor
Colin Farrell confused everyone when he recited two poems at Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral earlier this year. The late Cleopatra starlet had fostered a late-in-life friendship with the Irish actor — one of the only non-family members to attend her private funeral. She chose the poetry herself, asking friend Farrell to recite it. “You know, the old story of boy meets girl, and boy pesters girl with too many phone calls at inappropriate hours of the night,” the Phone Booth star said about their relationship. Regardless of how unexpected their attachment was, we imagine Farrell’s reading of these moving words was memorable.
The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo by Gerard Manley Hopkins
HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away? Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep, Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey? No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none, Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair, Do what you may do, what, do what you may, And wisdom is early to despair: Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done To keep at bay Age and age’s evils, hoar hair, Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay; So be beginning, be beginning to despair. O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none: Be beginning to despair, to despair, Despair, despair, despair, despair.
The Golden Echo
Spare! There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!); Only not within seeing of the sun, Not within the singeing of the strong sun, Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air, Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one, Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place, Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone, Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face, The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet, Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth! Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace, Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace— Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath, And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver. See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair Is, hair of the head, numbered. Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept, This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold What while we, while we slumbered. O then, weary then why When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care, Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.— Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder, Yonder.
Norman Mailer’s eulogy to himself
In 1979, writer Norman Mailer composed his own obituary/eulogy, which was published in Boston magazine. It’s a witty and poignant piece of writing that finds The Naked and the Dead author — who passed away in 2007 — poking fun at himself for his many marriages amongst other things. He even went so far to create fake eulogies from various friends: ” … Truman Capote, said, ‘He was always so butch. I thought he’d outlive us all.'” Read it in full below.
Novelist Shelved By Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer passed away yesterday after celebrating his fifteenth divorce and sixteenth wedding. “I just don’t feel the old vim,” complained the writer recently. He was renowned in publishing circles for his blend of fictional journalism and factual fiction, termed by literary critic William Buckley: Contemporaneous Ratiocinative Aesthetical Prolegomena. Buckley was consequentially sued by Mailer for malicious construction of invidious acronyms. “Norman does take himself seriously,” was Mr. Buckley’s reply. “Of course he is the last of those who do.”
At the author’s bedside were eleven of his fifteen ex-wives, twenty-two of his twenty-four children, and five of his seven grandchildren, of whom four are older than six of their uncles and aunts.
At present, interest revolves around the estate. Executors have warned that Mailer, although earning an average income of one and a half million dollars a year, has had to meet an annual overhead of two million, three hundred thousand, of which two million, two hundred and fifty thousand went in child support, alimony, and back IRS payments. It is estimated that his liabilities outweigh his assets by eight million, six hundred thousand.
When asked, on occasion why he married so often, the former Pulitzer Prize winner replied, “To get divorced. You don’t know anything about a woman until you meet her in court.”
At the memorial service, passages from his favorite literary works, all penned by himself, were read, as well as passages from prominent Americans.
His old friend, Truman Capote, said, “He was always so butch. I thought he’d outlive us all.”
Gore Vidal, his famous TV and cocktail-party adversary, complained sadly, “Norman did lack the wit that copes. I would add that he had the taste of Snopes, but why advertise William Faulkner, who’s responsible for everything godawful in American penmanship—one can’t call it letters.”
Andy Warhol said, “I always thought Norman kept a low profile. That’s what I liked about him so much.”
Gloria Steinem stated: “A pity. He was getting ready to see the light.”
Jimmy Carter, serving his fifth consecutive term as president, replied in answer to a question at his press conference this morning, “It is my wife’s and I regret that we never did get to invite Norman Miller [sic] to the White House, but we will mourn his passing. He did his best to improve the state of American book-writing and reading, which we all need and applaud.”