Essay on Oprah Winfrey Eulogy for Rosa Parks

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Dying is a phase we all go through when we are ill, murdered, or through any other form of death. As I think about dying I think about the process people go through when they are losing their loved ones. When we lose someone, we go through different stages of coping such as grief, mourning, and the overall funeral experience as a whole. One thing, many people need to deal with when losing a loved one is the overall eulogy of their person. An eulogy is defined as a speech or some type of writing that praises and gives a thought of a person or something highly, typically someone who has just died. Eulogies are used to put some light and perspective on things especially when a person who just lost their life. It is a sort of remembrance of that specific person. The eulogy I will be using throughout my essay is Oprah Winfrey’s Eulogy for Rosa Parks, which will help me connect with the stages of coping such as grief, mourning, and the overall funeral experience as a whole. In the book Death, Society, and Human Experiences, Robert Kastenbaum goes into depth when talking about death by explaining and analyzing death as a whole, as a society, and through experiences. In this paper, I will be using ideas from Kastenbaum's book to explain the understanding of how the analysis of eulogy demonstrates how it engages with grief, mourning, and the funeral process as a whole.

No one ever deals with coping the same way, we all deal with losing someone differently. The overall experience of losing someone is a life-changing experience. Grief is one of the stages of coping with someone’s death. Grief or grievance is a term that is defined as feeling deep sorrow, especially caused by someone's death. In Oprah Winfrey’s eulogy for Rosa Parks, she expresses her grieving for a person whom she feels is a hero in her eyes by talking and remembering the times she met Rosa Parks. In her eulogy, she expresses gratitude and sorrow, “I would not be standing here today nor standing where I stand every day had she not chosen to sit down. I know that. I know that. I know that. I know that, and I honor that” (Oprah, 2005). Oprah shows her grief through praising the legacy of Rosa Parks and what she did for not just herself, but also for the people of color. In Kastenbaum’s book, he claims that “Mental health experts now agree with the poets that grief is a human, not necessarily a weak or pathological response to loss... Nevertheless, there are situations in which grief is so extreme, so debilitating, and so enduring that the individual seems heading for catastrophe. The difference between a “normal” and a potentially endangering grief response has; therefore, become a focus of interest” (Kastenbaum Ch.10 pg. 350). I do believe as Kastenbaum stated that we grieve differently meaning that some of us feel more catastrophic over a death and others see it as “normal”. Grieving has many stages and many meanings and ways people deal with the death of a loved one.

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Mourning is another stage of coping when someone so close to you passes on. Mourning is defined as the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died, typically involving and following certain conventions such as wearing black clothes. Both mourning and grief are very similar in how to deal with death. Dressing in black clothing as a mourning mechanism is associated with death. In Oprah Winfrey’s eulogy for Rosa Parks, she expresses her mourning through her expression of black clothing. When Oprah speaks so profoundly about the legacy that Rosa Parks left she is shown in the video of her eulogy speech to be dressed in a black dress. She is representing her clothing choices to associate the death of someone who was a hero to her and embodied power. Not only did Oprah wear black as a symbol of death, but as a mourning mechanism that she empowered throughout the speech that was delivered. According to Kastenbaum, mourning expresses “is the culturally patterned expression of the bereaved person’s thoughts and feelings” (Kastenbaum Ch. 10 pg. 345). People deal with death and associate death differently, when I think of death and how to deal with the death of a person I think of darkness and associate the color black when mourning the death of a specific person. According to Kastenbaum, “People express their loss is not universal, however. These expressions vary from culture to culture and also change over time” (Kastenbaum Ch. 10 pg. 345).

The last stage of coping or dealing with death as a whole is the overall funeral process as a whole. When a person dies there is a process of how and what to do to help the person be laid to rest. Funerals are services that are held to memorialize a deceased person with their body present. In Oprah Winfrey’s eulogy for Rosa Parks, she speaks with so much gratitude, “I realized that God uses good people to do great things. And I'm here today to say a final thank you, Sister Rosa, for being a great woman who used your life to serve, to serve us all” (Oprah 2005). In this part of her eulogy, she shows and demonstrates that if it wasn’t for Rosa Park's courage that day she or any other person of color wouldn’t be standing in this world. Oprah tells her final thank you for representing and letting Rosa Park’s soul be laid to rest. In Kastenbaum’s book, he claims that funerals are a process, that includes family members of the person who passed on to be considered to “take the initiative, giving instructions for cremation or burial and disposal of personal property. The physician may be interested in obtaining permission to remove an organ for transplantation or conduct an autopsy to determine the precise cause of death. A funeral director may have already made preliminary arrangements to see that the wishes of the family are respected” (Kastenbaum Ch. 12 pg. 386). This shows that funerals are not just about laying a person who passed on to rest, but there are many things that go hand in hand in preparation for the funeral service such as the autopsy, death certificate, and many more typical funeral needs.

Dying is a scary connotation of when someone loses their life. There are many ways a person can die, which can either be through sickness or through unlawful acts done by cruel people. Death is something we all go through as a way to make room for the next generation. Grief, Mourning, and the funeral process as a whole are three similar terms to deal with the death of a person that is close to us. Throughout my paper, I analyzed and spoke about a term in connection with Oprah Winfrey’s eulogy of Rosa Parks where she gave thanks to a wonderful human being who made a difference in not Oprah’s life but to others. There are so many things to consider when dealing with the death of someone close, we grieve, we mourn and we go through the funeral process. However, we always show a remembrance of that specific person through the eulogy and the speeches we deliver to showcase the life of our loved ones. Oprah Winfrey stated as a goodbye to her eulogy, “I celebrate your strength to this day. And I am forever grateful, Sister Rosa, for your courage, your conviction. I owe you -- to succeed. I will not be moved” (Oprah 2005). These last lines showcase how it’s not a goodbye but thank you and see you soon. I believe that we always have our loved ones close to us even though they are not physically here with us.

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