The Perfect Eulogy: 6 tips to get it right
Anyone who has sat through a badly-crafted, long and rambling or morose eulogy will know the importance of writing the perfect eulogy. It takes skill, forethought, an attention to detail (ever been to a funeral where the information in the eulogy was incorrect or embarrassing for the family?), a strong knowledge of the person you are writing about, the ability to be concise, confidence in public speaking and a sense of humour. (The best eulogy I heard was filled with a recount of funny moments; lots of digs at the deceased’s (not serious) shortcomings and a genuine expression of grief for someone sadly missed.)
Whatever you do, don’t let a minister or celebrant who never knew the person write or deliver the eulogy!
It will fall flat and could contain errors and mispronunciations that will gravely dishonour the person being eulogised. If the person who wrote the eulogy doesn’t have the confidence to deliver it on the day, ask someone else who knew the deceased to read it for them. Often people will read a eulogy together to provide support for each other.
The perfect eulogy will contain a summation of the person’s life and primarily express the feelings and experiences of the person delivering it. The most touching eulogies are written from the heart and contain an honest and open perspective of the person who has died.
With any luck, the person who has died will have provided information in the Life Snapshot section of the Rest Easy Journal. This will help you in writing the perfect eulogy because you’ll know the information and events written are factual and seen through the eyes of the person who lived them.
Don’t set your expectations too high; the perfect eulogy doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ – just from the heart. And you don’t have to write it on your own. Ask family members and friends about their fondest memories and important life events about the loved one and quote them.
Remember the saying, ‘Don’t speak ill of the dead!’? Well, in today’s world it’s more realistic to be honest about a person’s positive and negative traits – all the elements that made up the person you loved and will miss. Keep your focus mostly on the positives, but you can put a human, compassionate spin on any challenges the person experienced to keep it more honest.
- Less is more with the perfect eulogy. Write out everything you want to say then cut it in half! You’ll get about 5 minutes maximum (or three A4 pages double-spaced) to deliver it. If you talk longer than that you’ll run the risk of alienating those present or worse, making them angry and upset.
- Remember you’re writing the eulogy for the family and mourners present – not for you. Everyone is there to mourn in their own way and they don’t want to be overwhelmed with a long rant about how important the person was to YOU.
- Write it out verbatim and practice reading it aloud a few times. You’ll soon find any mistakes, lengthy sentences or where it doesn’t run smoothly.
- On the day read every word from the notes you’ve written – NEVER go off-script, because you run the risk of leaving out important things and people, getting nervous or emotional and going over time.
- It’s a good idea to have close family read and OK your draft to make sure you have names and events correct and that you are not inadvertently highlighting touchy subjects or embarrassing anyone.
- Take a deep breath before you start. Yes, you may get emotional – that’s normal and everyone will forgive you for that. If you can’t continue, ask someone to read it for you as you stand beside them.
A eulogy may be the most difficult speech you will ever deliver, but it can also be the most wonderful gift you can give to the deceased and their loved ones.