What is a Eulogy, and who will do this?
We are asked many times what is a eulogy? and can I do this? And where do I start?
A eulogy is a funeral speech prepared and given by someone close to the deceased, about their life, their character and their achievements. In essence, a eulogy is a celebration of someone’s life. It’s a chance for everyone at the funeral to reflect, remember and even learn something new about the person they have all gathered together to pay their respects to. A eulogy is one of the times after someone passes that all these great memories can be retold; the comfort this can bring, and the connections it makes between people in the room, is huge. There’s a great quote by Doctor Seuss; “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Writing and delivering a eulogy or remembrance speech can seem daunting. While it’s an honour to be asked to give a eulogy at someone’s funeral, there’s commonly a fear of having to ‘get it right’. This should be from the heart, there are no right or wrong ways to do this, just let it come from the heart. Don’t ever feel pressured into it, or guilty if you decide to say no.
While only you can determine the unique tone of your eulogy, the following tips will help you write and deliver a touching, meaningful eulogy in nearly any funeral or memorial setting.
Keep Your Eulogy Brief
You don’t need to write a novel, so keep telling yourself that “less is more.” The truth is that the longer you speak, the more likely you will ramble and make yourself feel uncomfortable.
Instead, you should create a eulogy that you can deliver in around five minutes. If possible, ask the funeral director, clergy member, celebrant, or other officiants beforehand how much time you will have during the service, but five minutes is a good rule of thumb.
To help keep your remembrance speech brief, you should focus your eulogy on a specific quality or two about the deceased that you admire or share a story about the deceased that expresses a significant personality trait or formative moment in their life.
Ideally, try to relate something that you witnessed first-hand or that personally involved you, but if you’re having trouble thinking of something, then it’s OK to ask a close loved one for some ideas.
Make the Eulogy Personal
Listeners will not find your eulogy moving if you merely recite a list of dry facts, such as those found in most obituaries. And avoid simply rattling off a long list of character traits, such as “Uncle Gary loved hunting, motorcycles, the Green Bay Packers, woodworking, etc.” This approach is uninteresting.
Instead, share a story that illustrates something your loved one enjoyed—especially if you were also part of that story.2 If you can’t think of a first-hand story to share, then talk to a close family member or friend and borrow one from them.3
For example, if you and Uncle Gary once took a road trip on his motorcycle to see his favourite football team, that is the story to tell. Not only would this convey a deeper sense of his love of motorcycles, but you would also find it much easier to share other insights that listeners will find meaningful.
Always write down what you’re going to say, even if you plan to abandon your notes. It’s a good way to gather your thoughts and make sure you’re not missing any important details.
- Be personal and conversational. This isn’t a formal speech; it’s an appreciation.
- Start with a story about the person. People come alive through specific anecdotes.
- Be humorous. The best eulogies are respectful and solemn, but they also give mourners some comic relief. A bit of roasting is fine if it suits who the person was and the family has a sense of humour.
- Close your eulogy by directly addressing the person who died, something like “Joe, thank you for teaching me how to be a good father.”
Make a Written Copy
Even people who earn a living making speeches use a written copy of their speech, this will keep you on track with time and will make you feel more confident, Sometimes, a speaker will simply have a printed copy on a podium or even just an outline on index cards in a pocket.
If the professionals use a written copy of their speeches, then you should too. While you definitely need to practice your eulogy several times to make sure it’s long enough and that you become familiar with it, there is no reason to feel you must deliver your words from memory. Also if you are unable to deliver the eulogy on the day, someone will be able to step up and take over for you.
One nice thing about write your eulogy or remembrance speech on a computer you can print it out using a font size that you find easy to read, and double-space the printout so it’s easier to keep your place.
You can also print copies for family and friends as a keep’s sake.
In addition to your printed eulogy, it’s also a good idea to have a handkerchief or tissues with you in case you grow a little emotional, and a bottle of water should your throat feel dry.
I hope this has helped a little, but always remember your funeral director, clergy member, celebrant, or other officiants will be able to help you every step of the way if you need it.
Take care and enjoy sharing your lovely memories with everyone, that’s what its all about 😊
Before I go I would like to share this wonderful Poem called The Dash, this is a truly inspiring poem about life and what you make of it…..
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From the beginning…to the end
He noted that first came the date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth
For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering this special dash
Might only last a little while
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash…
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent YOUR dash?