Here are some ideas for writing and delivering a eulogy.
An obituary can serve as an inspiration or background
reference for a funeral eulogy. I have even attended funerals where the
entire obituary from the newspaper was read out as the main part of the
eulogy. So, the better the obituary, the better the eulogy.
First, some definitions. (Adapted from dictionary.com.)
- a notice (for example in a newspaper) of a person's death, often with
an account of their life and work.
- a laudatory speech or written tribute, especially praising someone
who has died.
- a funeral poem or song.
- a commemorative inscription on a tombstone. Also: a brief
poem or statement in praise of a deceased person.
- funeral rite or ceremony. Usually used in the plural.
In summary, then, while an obituary is a written form,
the eulogy is usually spoken, especially at a funeral. Preparing a
eulogy should follow a similar path as preparing an obituary, as
detailed elsewhere on this website. The eulogy, of course, has the
usual added component of being read aloud. The performance
aspect can be definitely difficult, especially for those not used to
public speaking and considering the emotional timing.
For a look at eulogies in a larger context, see Helping
Families Deal with Death "Most Satisfying Work" for Funeral Celebrant.
An excellent free resource on how to write and present a
eulogy has been created by Co-operative Funeralcare in the U.K. This
guide, entitled Well
Chosen Words, is available for free download in PDF format. This
booklet has several sections on preparing a eulogy: gathering
your thoughts about the deceased and the anticipated audience;
organizing and writing your ideas into a eulogy; and suggestions
for eulogy public speaking.
“Eulogies are for everyone. They are a reminder that
each of us leads a life of special interest and value, and that each of
us is unique, with our own special gifts,” says Andrew Morton,
Britain’s Poet Laureate, in the Foreword to Well
Chosen Words. “The eulogist’s task is to bring the deceased
into the mind’s eye of the congregation – and to let us remember their
voice and their manner, to let us share their interests, to let us
appreciate their qualities, to let us enjoy their company a moment
"Eulogies are the most moving kind of speech,"
writes speechwriter Peggy Noonan, in her book about working
for President Ronald Reagan, What
I Saw at the Revolution. "It is a
challenge to look at a life and organize our thoughts about it and try
to explain to ourselves what it meant, and the most moving part is the
element of implicit celebration. Most people aren't appreciated enough
. . . No one throws ticker tape on the man who chose to be faithful to
his wife . . . All this anonymous heroism. A eulogy gives us
a chance to celebrate it."
Tips for Writing a Eulogy
for a presentation of a few minutes. As a
guideline, for a five-minute spoken eulogy, write 500 words.
the organizing structure. Several different
approaches to organizing your material when writing a eulogy are
suggested in the booklet Well
Words. These are: chronological (from youth to old age);
reverse chronological (start with the most recent stage of life);
summarizing in three points; or using one inclusive theme.
for speaking. Avoid a formal written approach;
write as you would speak.
about using notes only. Accomplished speakers
often use only notes in point form to create a more
conversational style. Reading a text verbatim can sound stilted and
unnatural. However, reading verbatim can be used effectively
for the less experienced public speaker, to overcome nervousness, or to
prevent being overwhelmed with emotion. If using a poem or other
quotation, read exactly from a text.
Rehearse what you are going to say. Keep in mind that your
audience will be sympathetic. Speak deliberately. Speak slowly. Have a
glass of water handy. Breathe deeply.
- Have a
standby. If you are feeling too nervous or
emotional, give your eulogy to someone else to present. That person can
be asked beforehand to read it, or at least be ready to step in if
needed. (This person could be the funeral
* * *
Search results of Amazon.com for eulogy.
Funeral Readings / Poems Bookshelf Search results
of Amazon.com for funeral readings and poems.
Well Chosen Words An
excellent comprehensive free guide on how to write a eulogy.
Speaking Well: How to Give a Speech With Style, Substance, and Clarity by
political speechwriter Peggy Noonan.
and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder
Families Deal with Death "Most Satisfying Work" for Funeral Celebrant
Writing: Ten Tips