My father wrote his brother’s eulogy in Excel.

Here’s the story.

My uncle died in January 2007. My mother, father and I flew to Cleveland for the funeral. It was bitter cold. There was snow on the ground.

The morning of the service, while we were staying at one of those suite-style hotels with an indoor glass atrium, I noticed Dad was nervous.

He had been asked to give the funeral oration and asked if I could look over his draft.

Dad doesn’t ask for help often.

He had a version on his laptop. At first, I couldn’t understand what I was looking at. The format was so strange. It was a long list of text boxes.

It took a minute and then I realized that Dad wrote the speech in Excel.

“Dad, you wrote this in Excel?”

“Yes,” he said.


“I’m comfortable with Excel.”

One of the joys of life is spending time with your parents as an adult and discovering quirks and idiosyncracies you would not have imagined.

Who uses Excel as a writing program?

My father is a retired engineer who mainly uses his personal computer to work on spreadsheets that keep track of his budget.

I’m a Microsoft Word person, of course, so I cut and pasted the text of the eulogy into a Word document and got to work.

I asked a few questions, added some anecdotes, and tightened the language.

I’m a writer by vocation, but I spent my career writing news articles about finance and markets. I’ve never written speeches.

After finishing the edit, I increased the font size and separated each paragraph. That way Dad could flip through the pages like index cards.

It was a strange experience to hear my father read the speech and know what was coming, word by word, line by line.

Dad’s eulogy was well received. People were moved by the stories he told about his brother.

Later, he told me that it’s terrible for a younger sibling to pass first.

My uncle was just 76 when he died. He was taken too young.

That was 15 years ago.

My Dad still favors Excel. I still rely on Word.

We use the tools we know, to do the jobs we must.

(Part of a series of life lessons based on conversations with my parents.)