Writing an 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. A story or a little historical background may also be appropriate. The formative years of the deceased’s life including their childhood and schooling may also be covered. A loved one may have a particular spiritual outlook or a favourite poem or piece of literature 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, briefly include these too in the eulogy.

As a very general guide, the following are things you may want to include…

  • Birthplace and short details of early childhood
  • Educational and sporting achievements, military service
  • Work/career
  • 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 right thing to capture someone’s personality. Most photo-processing outlets can arrange enlargements and enhancement of existing photos quickly and cheaply.

Other items, such as a favourite hat, prized trophy, tennis racquet or golf club, can help symbolise a life. Sometimes family members like to bring such symbolic items with them, and place them on or near the casket before or after the eulogy.