Eulogies – a few personal thoughts

Over the last few years I have been asked on a number of occasions if I would give a eulogy.

So what is a eulogy? In simple terms, it is a tribute to someone who has just died. It is though not a simple task. Each eulogy is unique. It is also different from most other speaking engagements given the context and the location. It is commonly given by a minister, a priest, humanist celebrant, close family member or friend.

I have been asked by clients who had already outlived most of their family and friends.  I have also been asked by relatives who simply did not want to do it and did not want someone who did not know the deceased well to do it.  I have also been asked to provide a few pointers for colleagues and friends who had themselves been asked to do this.

The starting point is always the same.  Are you the right person to do it?

Is there someone else who might be better placed to give the eulogy? Should the responsibility be shared with someone? If more than one person is involved remember and discuss with them what you are going to cover.

For obvious reasons a eulogy can be an extremely difficult thing to do.  It is an emotional time and not everyone wants to speak in public.

Do you have time to do it properly?  A decision has to be made relatively quickly given the time constraints.

Even if a family member does not want to give the eulogy maybe there is something else they want to do such as reciting a poem or a religious reading.

Notwithstanding the above points, do not forget how privileged you are to be asked to do this.

If you decide to do it, start to note down what you already know about the person. Then who do you need to speak to. Find out if there is to be a funeral or cremation and who will be officiating.  In some cases you may also be organising the funeral arrangements.

As regards what you might want to say.  I do not follow a particularly style.  I do though spend a fair amount of time talking to people who knew the deceased such as family, friends or colleagues.

A eulogy is also a good opportunity to thank a number of people especially if the deceased had been ill or had been being cared for.  The obvious landmarks in a person’s life should also be mentioned.  Sometimes there is a story that a family member wants to be included.  The tone also needs to be appropriate.  Again your discussions can help you find out what the deceased would have wanted.

Do not also assume that everyone knows who you are. 15 minutes should be enough time in most cases.

One final point.  Not everyone may be able to make the funeral of a loved one or a friend because they themselves may have health problems or it may be too far to travel.  I have found that in situations such as this the person really appreciates being sent a copy of the eulogy.  Also if they are a close relative you should mention the fact that they could not make the service in the eulogy.

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