Planning a Eulogy.
As part of most funeral ceremonies, someone (a family member, the priest, minister or celebrant)
tells an abbreviated Life Story of the one who has died. This is called The Eulogy, from the Greek words “to speak
well of”. Often it is difficult to know what to include and what to leave out. Generally speaking, the main Eulogy
should include (i) a brief history and (ii) some personal characteristics. Some families use a video presentation
in some form as part of the Eulogy. Sometimes a second eulogy is brought from a grandchild, lifetime friend or
working associate. Some people choose to present this as a letter read to their deceased loved one.
Everybody is somebody’s hero. When we speak of somebody that we love who has died, a temptation
often arises to exaggerate their good points and eliminate their shortcomings. An old adage says that “the older we
are, the better we were”. It is good to be realistic in the Eulogy. Certainly, maximize the good, but even a
passing reference to the widely known shortcomings of the person who has died will lend credibility to your story.
Traces of genuine humour will often ease the hardest of eulogies. Most people have at least one
funny story in their past, usually famous among the family, if no-one else. Depending on the circumstances,
including this, can often provide an emotional relief valve to the heaviness of a funeral. Provided you do not set
out to be a stand-up comedian or bring into public an essentially private story, a small, genuine piece of humour
will highlight the good story you are telling.
Write it out
For two good reasons. First, it tidies your thoughts and presentation. It is easy to think that you
will come across more naturally if you speak “off the cuff”. Even if you are skilled and experienced in public
speaking, the emotion of the moment can rob you of a key memory you later may wish you had included. If you have
limited experience, it is likely that without preparation you will talk for longer than you had planned and get
enmeshed in the details of one part of the story, losing the main point.
Second, the act of telling the stories of someone we love often brings
uninvited tears and the inability to continue. This is natural. But the story needs to be told, and if you
cannot go on, another family member, a friend, the priest, minister or celebrant can take a written script and
continue until you are able. Without a script, your valuable thoughts may not be shared as you wish them to
Music has a way of both grasping and soothing the emotions. This is especially true at a funeral.
Often a key piece of music will follow immediately after the Eulogy, giving everyone present an opportunity to
reflect on the life being celebrated. Choose something loved by the family or the person who has died, or music
that sums up his or her character. Gone are the days when this music has to be slow and sombre. Unless the words
are socially unacceptable, almost anything goes. Download our Eulogy check list by clicking on the link
Download our Eulogy Check list here