A eulogy, or commemoration speech, is often the most meaningful part of a funeral or memorial service. To be asked to give one for a family member or friend is a privilege; but it can also be daunting. People fear speaking in front of a crowd more than just about anything else, and to do so at an emotionally charged event like a funeral adds an extra element of anxiety. With thoughtful planning and plenty of practice, however, you can deliver a eulogy that will truly honor your loved one.
Start with a Theme
Good speeches always have a central theme to bind them together. Without such a premise, a speech is just a collection of random thoughts that have been strung together. Start by thinking about the purpose of your eulogy. Are you going to be the only mourner eulogizing the deceased or will there be several others? In large part, that will determine what you talk about. Will you be giving a condensed life history of the person who died or simply sharing your own memories?
The theme you choose is dependent upon your relationship with the deceased. If you were coworkers, talk about his or her dedication to the job and the camaraderie you shared. If you are old school chums, talk about the glory days. For family members, talk about growing up or special family memories. Some people choose a serious tone that honors the deceased person while others would rather show their humorous side – which you choose depends on the personality of the deceased. The most recommended eulogy is a combination of both levity and seriousness.
Elements of a Eulogy
The idea behind a eulogy is to paint a picture of the deceased through memories and stories. In many cases, the officiate conducting the service didn’t know the departed on an intimate level; that’s where you come in. Since everyone attending the funeral won’t have known the deceased well, this is your chance to give them a glimpse of who he or she was. Try and talk about the real person – warts and all – in a respectful way. This is definitely not the time to air dirty laundry, make off-color remarks, or share family secrets.
There are a number of things you can include in a eulogy:
- Historical recap – This is an obituary of sorts, with details on date and place of birth, family, education, work, and special achievements. Talk with family to gather this important information.
- Interests – What did the deceased like to do for fun? What were his or her hobbies and interests?
- Poems, songs, quotes, and Scripture – If your loved one had a favorite song or Scripture, reciting it would be a great way to personalize your remarks. You can also search out meaningful literature or quotes that will epitomize his or her character.
- Your favorite memories of the deceased – This is the most important element of a eulogy. Think about your relationship with the deceased. Talk about how you met, things you did together, what you will miss the most about him or her, and share some humorous or touching memories.
- Talk about why the deceased will be missed. What made him or her special?
If you really get stuck, www.eulogyspeech.net has great templates for all occasions.
Putting it down on paper
Ad-libbing a eulogy is not a good idea. No matter how experienced you are at public speaking, or how composed you think you will be, emotions might get the best of you. Rather than just jotting down talking points, write out your entire presentation, from the introduction to your concluding remarks. Doing so will prevent you from forgetting to say something important, and will provide a safety net in case you get choked up.
Start by creating an outline and then fill in the information you want to share. Don’t try to write a piece of literature worthy of a Nobel Prize, just be yourself and write from your heart. If possible, limit yourself to 5-10 minutes and cover only the highlights, especially if there are going to be others speaking.
After you’ve written your first draft, set it aside overnight. Reviewing it the next day when you are fresh will help you catch errors and make revisions or additions. Once the manuscript is done, read it out loud several times; either to yourself or to others. Reading it into a recorder is also a good idea.
When you are comfortable with the document print it out. Number the pages, use a large font and double space so it is easy to read. Then practice, practice, practice. The more familiar you are with your words, the less nervous you’ll be when you step behind the podium. An effective eulogy isn’t just read, it is shared.
A eulogy may be the most difficult speech you will ever give. Remember that it is okay to show emotion; crying and even laughing are totally acceptable. Just in case, be sure to bring a tissue and a glass of water with you. Keep your delivery slow and steady; even seasoned speakers have a tendency to rush through the words when they are nervous.
You never know how you are going to react when you start speaking. Just in case you become too emotional to continue, have someone waiting in the wings to finish giving the eulogy for you if necessary.
Finally, keep in mind that the most touching and meaningful eulogies are highly personal and written from the heart. Your speech doesn’t have to be perfect; whatever you say will be appreciated.