Hal’s Eulogy

Ariel Meadow Stallings
6 min readMay 10, 2023

What to say when you’re asked to speak at the funeral of a superfan

In 2022, I was invited to speak at the memorial of an 86-year-old reader. I wasn’t able to attend in person because I was sick with COVID, but this was the eulogy I sent to be read for Hal, a reader who became a fan who became a friend.

A photo of Hal and his wife Joy, on their wedding day

None of you know me. My name is Ariel Meadow Stallings, and I’m an author and publisher from Seattle.

I’m best known for a goofy book I wrote 15 years ago about nontraditional weddings, although my most recent book is about recovering from a divorce. I founded a publishing company in the 00s, and I manage a network of websites and digital publications that cater to a very specific market: my readers are almost all nerdy, quirky white women somewhere between the ages of 30 and 45.

…Then along came Hal.

I’ve spent the last 15 years supporting my family by knowing very intimately who my readers are, what their life experiences are, and what they’re looking for — all in the hopes of creating work that meets their needs.

It’s literally my job to know a lot about my readers, and I can tell you that most of them are Millennial women known for life experiences like “I had a geeky Star Wars theme wedding!” or “I’m a queer mom who believes in co-sleeping!” or maybe even “I got a divorce, and now I want to learn more about meditation.”

I know these women.

…And I don’t have to tell you all that Hal was most definitely NOT ONE OF THESE WOMEN.

When Hal showed up in my inbox, first I was confused. How the heck did this octogenarian former defense contractor and retired logger from rural Idaho end up with a copy of my book From Shitshow To Afterglow in his hands!?

Did he get lost on the way to some other aisle in the library, trying to find Tony Robbins and somehow ending up with my silly book with the couch on the cover?

My book is meant to be inspiring, but it’s about weird stuff like sound healing, crying until you puke, and being in a polyamorous relationship with god.

None of my readers now or EVER have been like Hal. NONE OF THEM.

When Hal told me his story of loss, about how his wife Joy had passed away after their 65 years of marriage, I understood a little bit more about why he’d relate to my work… after all, I was writing about recovering from a loss.

But in other ways, I was even more confused.

I should be learning from HIM! My marriage only lasted 18 years! How could someone grieving the loss of a 65-year partnership possibly find anything to relate to in my piddly experiences?

This was a man who had lived a long life, a man grieving a true loss. I was just some middle-aged single mom living in Seattle’s geighborhood, stumbling my way through recovering from my stereotypical divorce.

How could any of my ramblings feel of value to Hal, my most unusual reader?

And yet somehow, Hal became not just a reader, but a friend. He was my “Greatest Generation” cheerleader, the most ardent supporter of my creative endeavors.

Hal bought every single one of my books, and every digital offering, some of them multiple times. He personally cheered on every essay I wrote, every new online course, always sending me a thoughtful email, finding a way to tie the topic to something larger, and encouraging me to keep pursuing my creative work.

When, in addition to my writing, I started teaching an online course about using dance as a therapeutic prayer practice, Hal would send me music he’d found on YouTube to consider for accompaniment. He even took the dance course!

This octagenarian in Idaho took my woo-woo online course about therapeutic dance called Lapdances4god?! HOW IS THIS A THING THAT HAPPENED!?

Over the years, Hal and I traded hundreds of emails, sometimes several a day, comparing our notes on spiritual awakenings in the face of grief.

We spoke of the way that loss can rip away everything in your psyche that helps you feel safe, and how it creates a vacuum of grief so profound that you lose track of who you ever were.

We talked about how grief tears you apart, and that there’s no way to hold yourself together.

We talked about how the only way through the grief was to let it undo you, and yet somehow keep your heart and soul open despite the pain.

We talked about the way grief makes everything sparkle with the magic of the unknown…

“This is a wonderful day,” Maya Angelou once said. “I have never seen this one before.”

Somehow, after we lose someone, time loses its linear grasp on us, and hours stretch into endless days, full of the pain of loss… and yet also possibilities.

How can this day possibly exist without them in it?

The gap of missing becomes a chasm that we can’t jump over, can’t sneak around, can’t outsmart.

There is only allowing the grief to consume us, to transmute us, to turn us into something new.

This is the kind of light stuff that my friend Hal and I talked about.

I will say for myself, that once I hit middle age my brain started to calcify and get tired.

It starts to whisper about how it’s all downhill from here, how there are more good days behind you than in front of you.

How you’ve already probably learned everything you’re going to learn, and at this point, it’s just riding your ridigity and fixed-mindedness through to the end.

But my brain is lying. My friend Hal taught me this.

My friend Hal taught me that even in your 80s, you can expand into a new awareness.

How, even in the face of the most enormous heartbreaking loss, you can find yourself cracked open to new experiences, new beauties, new joys, new conversations, new awareness, and new horizons.

Hal gave me hope that even when the most profound loss strikes, there’s still somehow, miraculously, beauty and growth and transformation waiting in those dark moments.

Hal taught me that you’re never too old to make new friends, forge new alliances, and breathe new life into your days.

Hal was a cheerleader and supported my creative work until the very end, offering to contribute to my project of the reflooring of my dance space (which also happens to be my living room).

“Thank you for all of the many helpful things that you have brought into my life,” he emailed. “And for all the many helpful things that I’m sure are yet to come as you conquer these messy transitions and move forward on your paths.”

The last message I sent him was a video tour of my new dance space, thanking him for all the ways he’d supported my work, and letting him know that I’d be celebrating him each morning when I stepped up to the barre to do my daily devotional dance practice.

In this way, every single day, I celebrate my friend Hal.

I celebrate all that I learned from him about growth and expansion even in the final years of life.

Thank you to all of Hal’s family for sharing him with me.

I am so sorry for your loss, and so grateful that I had the opportunity to know your father and your grandfather while I did.



Ariel Meadow Stallings

I'm a product manager at Medium, but I'm also a whole-ass person living my life: author, publisher, dancer, Seattleite, mom, and just a human humanning.