Guidelines for a 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 helpful eulogy is much more than a list of dates, but it is right to include important 'milestones' - birth and marriage, significant moves and changes of career.

Often it may be better to begin with a poem or reading than simply with a birth date. If a loved one had a particular spiritual outlook or favourite passage of literature, it may be easy to choose something that sets the tone perfectly.

At other times, a story or a little historical background may help. For example, if a person was born in Warwick in the 1920's, our talk might begin with a word-sketch of what life was like in the town in those days.

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 great 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. If they want to offer a few words or a precious memory, try to briefly include these ingredients.

Checklist

As a very general guide, we offer the following checklist of 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

A eulogy may be as long or as short as required to impart a special message about the person, for some it may be 5-10 minutes or a couple of A4 pages.

Symbols

"A picture is worth a thousand words" - and that is often true. Many families like to display photographs, play a video or showcase other life symbols at the funeral service.

Photographs don't need to be recent, provided they are characteristic of a person's life. Sometimes a family photo or other group shot can be just the thing to capture someone's true personality.

Most photo-processing outlets can arrange enlargements and enhancement of existing photos quickly and affordably. This can be really useful if you want to lift a single image from a larger picture.

You may wish to reflect on the person’s life with a personalised DVD presentation. This memorial tribute merges photographs and video clips with music and is played through a projector and screen.

Other items, like a favourite hat, prized trophy, art or craft sample, tennis racquet or golf club, can all help symbolise a life. There are many possibilities. Sometimes family members like to bring these kind of items with them and place them on or near the casket before or after the eulogy.

Finally, a carefully chosen piece of music can provide a pleasant reflective space after the eulogy. This may reflect the personal taste of the deceased, or simply be a track that the family find helpful for themselves.