The eulogy is a speech in celebration of your loved one, a very personal account of the way they have touched your life and others. Writing and delivering the eulogy is a special task, for the eulogy helps survivors say goodbye and can begin the healing process for all.
Anyone can deliver a eulogy- a family member, friend or clergyperson- and it is best delivered by one who has known and loved the deceased. The eulogy may even be shared, with a number of people contributing words of remembrance and poetry.
Here are some hints that will help you create a eulogy worthy of your loved one:
At this time, when they are so important, the eulogy brings memories to the surface to be re-lived. In preserving and sharing these memories, you create a gift for others and yourself. Embrace this task you’ve been given. It means the world to those who share your grief.
Before you begin to write, here is a simple strategy that will help you prepare. Know that you are not alone in your task; you have the support of family and friends.
1. Begin with the person’s history
Note the significant events of the person’s life in chronological order: childhood, education, jobs, marriage, children, places lived and so on.
2. Gather your stories
Jot down the stories that you remember-the ones that capture your loved one’s character. Ask family and friends for their stories as well.
These questions may help get you started:
• How did you first meet and become close?
• What did you love and admire about the person?
• What did they do that made you smile?
• What will you miss most?
Even the simplest stories are worthwhile. Remembering someone’s laugh or their love of sweets, for example, can be as moving as recalling their kindness and generosity. Be sure to include stories that at least some of your listeners will remember.
3. Look at photos
Going through photo albums may remind you of important qualities and memories of the person who died.
4. Find a theme
By now you may see certain themes emerging. For example, your collection of stories may reveal the person’s deep love of animals, the strays she brought home as a child, her dreams of becoming a vet and the joy she experienced at opening her own practice. Writing your eulogy to a theme will help it flow and is ideal for illustrating the character of your loved one.
5. Arrange your notes
Now you have a chronology, stories and a theme, you can put your notes in point form. We suggest arranging your material on cards, with a different story or idea on each card. Once you have placed the cards in order, you can begin to write your speech.
Writing the eulogy
In writing the eulogy, it helps to break it down into three parts: introduction, body and conclusion. With your opening words, introduce your listeners to the ideas you intend to elaborate on. For example, ‘Today, we unite to honour and remember our loved one, who touched us all with her kindness and generosity’. The body of the eulogy is where you share the stories that demonstrate the qualities named in your introduction. Be sure to keep your theme in mind as you write and use linking sentences between each story so the eulogy flows. Use the conclusion to summarise the ideas raised in your speech and to reiterate what your loved one has meant to you.
Hints for writing
• Write as though you are talking to a friend, for that is what you will be doing-talking to a loving, supportive group.
• Compose your speech on a computer if possible so that you can edit along the way.
• Don’t be afraid to use humour where appropriate. Remember, the eulogy is a celebration of the life of your loved one.
• You may want to use a special quote to open or close your speech. Look to poetry, songs and historical speeches for inspiration.
• Once you have completed your first draft, ask a trusted friend or family member to read it over and suggest any changes.
• When you are happy with your speech, type or write it out in large print with space between the lines so it is easy to read.
Delivering the eulogy
Public speaking can be frightening. You need to be brave. Know that your listeners are supportive and loving. Know that it’s okay to make mistakes. No one expects you to be a great speaker and certainly not at this difficult time. It is your words, and the sentiment behind them, that matter the most.
Hints for speaking
• Before the day, practise in front of a mirror, imagining your listeners before you.
• If you fear that you might break down, arrange for a backup speaker to be on hand with a copy of your speech. Simply knowing they are there may get you through.
• When the time comes, be yourself. Imagine you are talking to a good friend.
• Speak clearly and project your voice so everyone can hear you.
• If you feel yourself becoming choked up with emotion, pause and take a deep breath to collect your thoughts. Your listeners will understand.