Writing a Eulogy
It is impossible to sum up a life story in a few minutes. However, we can tell stories and recall memories in valuable and creative ways.
A eulogy is a time where we can talk about our loved one and remember who they were. It is a summary which covers important or interesting aspects of the deceased’s life.
You might like to include important ‘milestones’ – births and marriages, significant moves and changes of career. At other times, a story or a little historical background may be appropriate. The formative years of the deceased’s life, including their childhood and schooling may also be covered and they may have had a particular spiritual outlook or a favourite book or poem which can also be included.
The eulogy should act as a springboard for others to call to mind their own special memories. So talk about your feelings for this special person – tell some stories about your experiences with him or her. Anecdotes are a special way to celebrate life – there is no reason to avoid the things that were amusing or even mildly irreverent!
Many immediate family members may understandably feel unable to speak publicly themselves, yet have important things to say. Check with them and if they want to offer a few words or a precious memory, include these too in the eulogy.
Below are some guidelines:
- Birthplace and short details of early childhood.
- Educational and sporting achievements, military service.
- Marriage and family life.
- Hobbies, club memberships, charity involvement.
- Preferences in music, literature, theatre, etc.
- Characteristic words and sayings.
- Personal qualities (perhaps illustrated by stories).
People often ask how long a eulogy should be – really it should be as long or as short as you wish but normally 10 minutes (a couple of typed A4 pages) is appropriate.
DVD or Photo Presentations
“A picture is worth a thousand words” – and that is often true. Many families like to display some photographs or other life symbols at the funeral service. Photographs need not be recent, provided they are characteristic of a person’s life. Sometimes, a family photo or other group shot can be just the thing to capture someone’s personality.
At John Rhind, our in-house service enables us to organise photos and arrange music so that everything is ready for the service.
Other items, like a favourite hat, prized trophy, tennis racquet or golf club, can all help symbolise a life. Sometimes, family members like to bring these symbolic items with them, and place them on or near the casket before or after the eulogy.
Finally, a carefully chosen piece of music can provide a pleasant reflective space after the eulogy. This may reflect the personal taste of the deceased, or simply be a track that the family find helpful for themselves.