Written by Adam P. Schmitt
As if being stuffed into last year’s dress pants at his cousin’s wake weren’t uncomfortable enough, thirteen-year-old Jimmy has just learned from his mother that he has to say a few words at the funeral the next day. Why him? What could he possibly say about his cousin, who ruined everything they did? He can’t recall one birthday party, family gathering, or school event with Patrick that didn’t result in injury or destruction. As Jimmy attempts to navigate the odd social norms of the wake, he draws on humor, heartfelt concern, and a good deal of angst while racking his brain and his memory for a decent and meaningful memory to share. But it’s not until faced with a microphone that the realization finally hits him: it’s not the words that are spoken that matter the most, but those that are truly heard.
Primary Source Pairing:
Jimmy is faced with an incredibly hard task – giving the eulogy at his cousin’s funeral. Nothing about his relationship with his cousin Patrick was easy. In fact, Patrick complicated things most of the time. In a story told in humor and jokes, the sadness peeks through when Jimmy considers what he can say to honor the life of his cousin. In the end, his words are true, heartfelt, honest, and ultimately kind. For this primary source pairing, invite students to watch a video of a man named Luke Russert giving a eulogy for his father Tim Russert. Encourage students to make connections or cite differences between the two eulogies (the one Jimmy gives for Patrick and the one Luke Russert gives for Tim Russert).
Questions for Discussion:
- Describe what you see and hear.
- What do you notice first?
- Are any words unfamiliar to you?
- Do you notice any background noises?
- What other details do you hear?
- How do you feel when you listen to Luke Russert give this eulogy for his father?
- Make a connection to something you hear in this video to something you read in the book Speechless.
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Eulogy for Tim Russert, Given by his son Luke Russert (June 2008), https://www.funeralwise.com/celebration-of-life/ceremony/eulogy/russert/
Luke Russert Honoring His Dad – Memorial Service In Wash. DC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy-YIb9UWlw