Writing a eulogy - some things to consider
Preparing the best eulogy may well start the healing process
The very best eulogies are not read from paper but are spoken from the heart. I've had to prepare two - my first eulogy was for my father when he died at 89 years of age and my next was for my mother five years later (she was 95). Mom died Feb 15, 2012 so I'm obviously still dealing with the post traumatic syndrome following her death.
My own path for grief is a bit different than most - you see, I was my Mom's caregiver for the past 5 years. She lived with me and she died with me, my brother, friend Sharyn, and caregiver Elizabeth in the living room of my home. I consider her as a winner in the game of life. Writing a eulogy for her was quite easy.
As Mom's caregiver, I started to mourn her last year when I started to see bits and pieces of her personality fall away. These bits and pieces surfaced occasionally, but the times that she wasn't herself grew longer and the periods where she was back to "normal" were fewer. This doesn't mean that she wasn't still hilarious; she was. She had a humor that surpassed all. And, she was always my Mom - she still told me to wear my shoes, be careful when I was going out, and waited up for me when I came in late.
So, when the time came to hold her hand and kiss her goodbye, it was actually with a bit of relief. She's fought hard just to stay alive those last two weeks and final moments, and I knew that she was tired and needed her final rest. I had already started formulating her eulogy in my mind for quite some time - storing away the stories I wanted to tell to let the mourners hear who my Mom was.
Writing a eulogy should not be a chore - in fact, if it is, perhaps you're not the one who should be giving the eulogy at the funeral service. A eulogy should be a loving tribute to your loved one - a tribute that, hopefully, you'll be able to deliver, tears and all.
The below process is not exactly how I went about creating my eulogy as I'm a writer by nature. My eulogy more "came to me" but, for most people, writing a good eulogy does take some practice and a bit of luck. Regardless, come along and find some tips that I've figured out as I wrote my eulogies.
Toward the bottom of this Squidoo article, I'll add in the links to both Mom and Dad's written eulogies. Since I only use a written eulogy as a guide, they're not exactly of what I spoke during the funerals but they're close.
And, finally, at least for the intro section, here's an article I wrote about Bereavement gifts. I received the blue iris lamp in memory of the light my mom shone on the world - I have yet to turn it off.
If you like to learn from a book, here's a few good books about eulogies on Amazon
I sort of instinctively knew how to go about writing a eulogy but, if you prefer to get ideas from a book, here's some decent reads on Amazon.com.
This goes for my Dad too...
Writing a eulogy
Lesson #1: Get out the index cards
I learned this technique in school and it works for any involved process. Now, you can, of course, use a computer but I've found that writing by hand helps the words flow quicker. Also, when I write on the , I'm innately concerned about correcting my errors and this breaks the rhythm of writing a good eulogy (at least for me...). So.... computer like my Apple (which I love!)
Once you have 10 or so cards, start moving them around so they're in some sort of order. You'll find that the stories you hope to tell will sort of flow together using this method.
Once done, number the cards and stack them. This will serve as your outline for the eulogy.
Some items to help your prepare your eulogy
If you prefer to just write on a notepad, do that instead of the index cards. I do find, though, that the index card method is easier for organization than a notepad. If you like organization, but colored index cards and color code the stories - yellow for background, green for humor, red for poignant, etc.
Below are some items on amazon that might help you create the eulogy outline.
Pendaflex Oxford Ruled Index Cards, 3x5 Inches, White, 1000 Cards
Oxford 3X5 Glow Index Cards, Ruled, Assorted Colors, 300 Count
Mead Color Ruled Index Cards with Tray, 3 x 5 Inches, Assorted
Writing a eulogy
Lesson #2: Start with some background about your beloved one
A good eulogy should have some background about the early days of your loved one. I actually didn't do this for Mom as most of the mourners had been to Dad's funeral 5 years prior and I gave background of both Mom and Dad then. You see, my parents were pretty much tied at the hip from the early days of their courting until his death at their home in 2007. Even today, it's difficult to separate the "Joe" from the "Gertie."
Early background can be brief. Talk about where they were born, their siblings, and throw in a good story about the "good old days" if you have one. Here's a few things to consider when you're writing background:
1. Talk about the changes in the world your loved one saw. In our case, Mom was born before the modern zipper was patented, before bandaids, stainless steel or ball point pens were created. She was born just 12 years after the very first Wright brothers flight. This information fascinated me so I figured it would be interesting to the crowd of mourners at the funeral home.
2. Add in information about their own nuclear family such as their brothers, sisters and their own parents.
3. If your departed loved one was married, a story about how she/he and their mate met is a great attention getter.
The day my Dad died in Arizona, my brother and I flew there to be with my other brother and my Mom. We wanted to accompany them home. As my brother and I sat in the plane on the early morning flight out, I took out a notepad and started just jotting down my thoughts. I did it in outline form at first, jumping from topic to topic, never fleshing out any story. The words just poured out of me and I wrote 17 pages worth of notes that morning on that flight.
You might like to add some music to the funeral
I'm not a fan of morose funeral music and the below are some of the nicer tribute songs you might select in honor of your dearly departed one. I think it's particularly poignant when one puts together a slideshow and has that playing prior to the funeral. Try to select music which represents the life of your loved one.
Writing a eulogy
Lesson #3: Add in a bit of humor
Eulogies don't have to necessarily be morose or all sad - throw in a few stories about something humorous in your loved one's life. I chose to add in a few stories from my Mom's later years - years that she spent sipping a sherry during happy hours with my friends; oh how we laughed.
The stories I chose to share are stories that showed my Mom and Dad's compassion and wit. Like the time I was changing the oil in my car and got drenched because I was under the nut in the oil pan when I turned the nut. Dad and Mom tried to warn me and, when I came out from under the car spitting oil, they were holding each other up.
Find stories that are special to you and your family to share.
A dog named Beau - A eulogy by Jimmy Stewart
I remember seeing this Johnny Carson show when it aired. I cried and cried at Jimmy Stewart's eulogy to his beautiful dog, Beau. I believe you'll love it too.
Writing a eulogy
Lesson #4: Ask for help from others if you (or they) need it
If you need help coming up with stories or things to say, ask for help from others. You might find that your friends and family have stories they'd like to add in or important information the you might have missed. Suggesting that others might like to give a eulogy themselves is nice but not everyone is strong enough emotionally to give a eulogy - it's hard to get up there in front of a crowd of people you might or might not know and try to tell stories you'd like them to hear.
As promised, here's links to my parents' eulogies...
...and a few other helpful websites.
- In memory of darling Joe
This link goes to my website, Gertie's Galavants - travels with a 95 year old. I'll be retiring the website shortly but have a few more posts to make. It will, however, remain in google blogger heaven forever so you're welcome to peruse all of the po
- Good night, Sweetheart
And, those are the last words I believe Mom spoke to me, two days before she died. Right after she told me she loved me. Here's the eulogy although it's not exactly what I gave when at the funeral.
- Funerals with love
This is a short 5 tip helpful guide in drafting and delivering a eulogy. They suggest you practice your delivery but I never do. I prefer to just 'wing' it.
- Things I wish I'd known before I became a caregiver
If you're a caregiver like me, here's an article I did with a lot of tips on caring for the elderly.
- Caring Bridge. org
This site is the site I used to update family and friends while Mom was recovering from a broken hip. It's a great site and free to boot!
- Causes of dementia in the elderly
Mom didn't exactly have dementia as much as confusion periodically, but, with good reason. Check out some of the most common reasons for dementia in the elderly.
I used to read all the comments on my Squidoo articles out loud to my mom; nowadays, the dogs seem to listen (just briefly) as I continue to voice your comments. Please leave me a note so I know you stopped in.