A eulogy is a speech intended to commemorate a loved one who has died. It is usually presented at a memorial service or funeral by someone who was close to the deceased and knows them well.
A eulogy may contain a condensed life history of the person who has died, details about family, friends, work/career, interests, and achievements. Favourite memories of the deceased, favourite poems, songs, quotes, or prayers.
The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from the heart. A eulogy does not have to be perfect. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people in attendance.
Start by understanding the task at hand. Writing and delivering a eulogy is an honour. It is an opportunity for you to bring the deceased person back into the minds of those in attendance. Your words will paint a picture of the deceased through the memories, anecdotes and stories you tell. A eulogy allows the audience to remember the person, who they were, what they did and what they enjoyed about life.
Recall your own memories. Think about the deceased and the relationship you had with them. Where you met (if you are not family), things you did together, humorous or touching memories, and what you will miss the most might be things you decide to share.
Gather information about the deceased. Talk with family members and close friends to gather important information. Even colleagues may have valuable things to share.
Some important information to consider:
- Person’s age/date of birth
- Family and other close relationships
- Hobbies or special interests
- Places the person lived
- Special accomplishments
You may want to organise your notes and drafts on a computer program, plain paper or note cards. Use whatever method is most comfortable and familiar to you. Some people prefer to prepare and deliver a serious eulogy while others will want to keep the tone light. A mix of both elements, solemnity and humour, is usually best. It allows the audience to grieve appropriately but to also share in the celebration of a life. Create an outline of your speech and fill in the information you gathered about the person. Keep in mind how much time you will have to speak. It is best to err on the short side, especially if several people will be speaking.
Write your speech in your own voice. That means to write it in the same way you would normally talk. Do not worry about the formalities of writing. Your audience will want to feel like you are talking to them, not reading from a script. Keep in mind the most important thing: write from your heart.
Review and revise.
The first draft you write is usually not the last. Read through it and decide what to keep and what to leave out. You may want to read it to family or friends to get their opinion or read it into a recording device so you can listen to it yourself. When you think it is finished, leave it overnight. Review it again the next day when it will be fresh again. Make any necessary revisions.
Practise reading the eulogy several times to become familiar with it. You do not have to memorise it unless you really want to. You will want to know it well enough that you do not have to read it word for word but it is a good idea to have a written copy, or at least notes, that you can refer to.
Finalise a copy.
As mentioned before, it is a good idea to have a copy of the speech printed out for reference. Again, use the method most comfortable to you whether it is a computer program, note cards or plain paper. A couple of useful tips: Print in large text so it is easy to refer to and number the pages so you do not get them mixed up.
Even if you are comfortable speaking to large groups of people, a eulogy can be a difficult speech to deliver. Try to remember that you are doing this to honour the memory of a loved one, not gain the approval of the audience. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and picture the deceased in your mind, then begin. Try to speak slowly and breathe throughout. It is easy to hold your breath when your nervous. If you need to pause and take a deep breath, do it. Remember that just as you wrote from the heart, deliver from the heart.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing
- Have a glass or bottle of water handy, as well as a handkerchief/tissues
- Have a back-up plan. If you cannot continue, have someone else on hand and who are prepared to deliver the speech for you. Give that person a copy of the eulogy beforehand, just in case.
- Remember that it is alright to show emotion. If you become emotional and start to cry, that is perfectly normal. Take time to regain your composure, but if you are unable, ask your back-up person to help you.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Memories, stories, and anecdote
- Poems, stories, and/or religious writings
- Paper and a pen, or a computer
- Water for the delivery of the eulogy
- A handkerchief or tissues- just in case
- Courage !