Friday, November 03, 2006

Eulogy Tips: (From

Writing a eulogy is a difficult task. It is hard to condense a lifetime of experiences into a short speech to be delivered at a memorial service. Eulogies don’t have to be depressing and formal. A eulogy can include favorite poems, meaningful reminiscences, war stories, or even jokes. Here are some quick tips on how to put together a thoughtful eulogy.

1. What do you want to say?
The first you'll need to do is decide what you want to say. Collect all the basic facts about the deceased: their age, names of children or survivors, marriages, places they've called home or loved to visit, and their career or educational information. Now think about the person you’re remembering. What kinds of stories about them or quotes capture your loved one's personality? Did they have a favorite poem or author? What was important to them? Did they have a favorite charity or cause? Talk with their survivors for inspiration and ideas

2. Decide on a tone or theme
Whether you decided to give a solemn speech, a light account of their life with comical musing, or somewhere in between, a theme gives purpose to the eulogy. It helps the attendees see what the deceased’s life stood for. If you’re writing a eulogy for your Grandfather, for example, your theme could be how he was always a great story teller and confidant to his grandchildren. With your theme in place, you can collect stories that he told to other survivors and yourself. If your theme was his important work and career, you might speak with coworkers to get stories and remembrances of his working life and contributions made to his field or place of business. Knowing how you'd like to deliver the eulogy gives you a base to work from when decided which stories to use.

3. Organize your notes into segments
If you are doing your work on a computer, type all of your notes in a document with a return between the different topics. This will make it easier to move your ideas around on the document and you can fine tune the order until you have it perfect. If you'd rather write it by hand try the old essay trick from school and write your notes onto index cards or sheets of paper. This way you can shuffle around and work with the statements until you get them how you want them. Once you have organized your notes into an order than flows well, jot the information into a rough outline.

4. Write your first draft
Using the outline you’ve developed, write out a draft of your speech. Fill in any gaps in information and make sure each idea flows into the next. Try not to let the speech get too stiff, you don’t want a long fact sheet on your loved one’s life. Try to incorporate real life experiences or anecdotes between the facts. Use bits of humor if you think it is appropriate.

5. Make your final draft
Go over your first draft and finalize what you are going to say. This is a great time to get input from other survivors or friends that will give you advise. Read the speech out loud at least once at this stage to be sure it sounds right to you. Once it is finalized, rewrite it neatly or type the speech so it will be easier to read at the funeral. Even if you plan to memorize the speech, have a copy at the funeral. The funeral can be very emotional and it will be easy to forget parts that aren't written down.

6. Practice delivering the eulogy
Read your speech to yourself and outloud to a third party. This will help you point out any areas that don’t sound right or are not appropriate. Practice your speech in front of another person to get their input or deliver it in front of a mirror to get used to saying the words. Even delivering the speech on a trusted family pet, while imagining an audience, can help you work the kinks out. The more familiar your are with the words, the easier it will be to deliver the eulogy.

7. Relax
While giving the speech, remember to relax and breathe normally. Remember, no one will be judging you; they are all there to honor your loved one. Pay attention to the speed that you are speaking. We tend to speed up when we’re nervous so take it at a normal speaking pace. It’s good to add pauses to collect your thoughts or provide time for the audience to digest your information. You can even jot down places to break on your notes in case you forget to pause. Always take a second copy of your speech and provide it to a backup speaker in case you can’t continue. It is common to get emotional during delivery. You may have to quit speaking to comfort someone or just may not be able to continue yourself. People will understand, this happens all the time at funerals. Having a backup will ensure that your speech will be delivered if you cannot finish. If you start to feel nervous, imagine that you just speaking to your loved one. This can help take the pressure off.