Eulogies

Giving a meaningful, moving eulogy can be a nerve-wracking situation for even the most accomplished public speaker, but it need not be.  How can you summarize someone’s life in a few short minutes, while being both somber and humorous at the same time? Writing and delivering a eulogy is a therapeutic tool that can help deal with your grief, and being chosen to give a eulogy is an honor and should be treated that way.  Here are some tips for writing and delivering an eloquent and memorable eulogy.

  • Gather information.  Talk with family members, close friends and co-workers to get important information on the deceased.  Some important information to include in the eulogy is the persons family and other close relationships, their education/career, hobbies or special interests, places the person lived or traveled too, and any special accomplishments they had.
  • Organize your thoughts.  Jot down your ideas by whatever means are most comfortable and familiar to you.  Create an outline of your speech, and fill in the information that you gathered about the person.
  • Write it down.  This is not a toast at a wedding where you can make off the cuff remarks, and you should not ad-lib a eulogy.  Writing it all down allows you to include and remember every detail you wanted in your eulogy.  When you bring a copy your eulogy to the podium be sure that it is easy to read; print it out in a large font, or if it hand-written leave a few spaces between the lines.  Keep in mind your time constraints - it’s best to keep things on the short side, especially if there are other speakers.
  • Review and Revise.  Your first draft will not be your last.  When you think you are finished, sleep on it and look it over in the morning when it is fresh again. That will be the time to make any necessary revisions.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.  Read over your eulogy several times in order to become familiar with it.  Practice in front of a mirror, read it over to some friends or family and have them give you feedback.  Become familiar with your speech so you can recite it without making it look like you’re reading from a script.  The more you practice the more comfortable you will be. 
  • Make them laugh, but be respectful.  A funeral is not a roast, however there is room for humor in your eulogy.  Fondly remember a story about the person that everyone can relate too.  Keep it appropriate, as there will be children and the elderly there that may not share the same sense of humor.  Laughter is truly the best medicine, and some well-placed humor will help people cope, and will bring back fond memories of the deceased.
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion.  Funerals are an extremely emotional event, nobody expects you not to shed a few tears.  However, if you feel that you will be too strongly overcome by your emotions, have a back-up plan in place where someone you trust can deliver the eulogy for you.  Give them a copy well in advance if you feel this could be an issue.
  • Have a glass of water as well as tissues handy.

Obituaries

Writing an obituary is a difficult and emotional task.   First, you will need to gather information from family and friends of the deceased about their childhood, education, career and hobbies and interests.  As well, speak to the funeral home to receive any important information on the date, time and location of any funeral service, or other funeral related events.  If you choose, you can use the template below to assist you with the process. 

Instructions: Replace all items in ITALICS below with the appropriate information.

[GIVEN NAME] [MIDDLE NAME (AND NICKNAME)] [SURNAME NAME], [AGE], of [CITY], [STATE], passed away on [DATE OF DEATH] in [LOCATION OF DEATH].

Funeral services will be held at [LOCATION] on [DATE] at [TIME] with Reverend [NAME] of [CHURCH] officiating. Burial will follow at [CEMETERY NAME], [CEMETERY LOCATION]. Visitation will be held at [LOCATION] on [DATE] at [TIME]. [NAME OF FUNERAL HOME] will be handling the funeral arrangements.

[NAME] was born in [LOCATION OF BIRTH] to [PARENT’S NAMES] on [DATE OF BIRTH]. He/she went to high school at [SCHOOL NAME] and graduated in [YEAR]. He/she went on to earn a degree/certificate in [DEGREE TYPE] from [SCHOOL NAME]. He/she worked as a [JOB TYPE] for [COMPANY] for [NUMBER OF YEARS]. He/she enjoyed [ACTIVITIES/HOBBIES]. He/she received [AWARDS/HONORS] and was involved in [CHARITIES/ORGANIZATIONS].

[NAME] is survived by his/her [RELATION], [NAME] of [CITY].  (List all survivors: spouse children, siblings, parents, grandchildren, nieces and nephews). He/she is preceded in death by his/her [RELATION], [NAME]. (List predeceased: spouse, parents, children and siblings.)

Memorial donations may be made to [ORGANIZATION NAME], [MAILING ADDRESS].  The family wishes to extend their gratitude to [ORGANIZATION/NAME] [FINAL WORDS].

Remember: most newspapers charge by length, and charges for local newpapers are listed below. This template is good for getting the all the information necessary in as few words possible, but is not written in stone.  Make any adjustments you feel necessary.  

LOCAL NEWSPAPERS - OBITUARY CHARGES
NOTE: one line is generally 20-24 characters

Frankfort State Journal
Charge is 35 cents per word, Photo charge: $25 b&w / $50 color
FREE: Name, age, date of death, one survivor or pre-deceased, arrangements

Lexington Herald-Leader
Charge is $9.37 per line, Photo charge is $110
FREE: first seven lines - usually name, age, date of death, services

Louisville Courier-Journal
Charge is $75 plus $8.70 per line, Photo charge is $60     
FREE: Name, age, funeral home