Capturing the life and personality of a loved family member or friendEulogies can be simple reminiscences, favourite jokes, express gratitude, whatever you want to say about your loved one.
First, collect the biographical facts:
- circumstances leading up to the death
- age, date and place of birth, parents names, siblings names,
- early life of the family - parents occupations, where the family lived, family activities
- childhood interests, relationships with parents, siblings, grandparents, friends from early days
- education, working life - trade, profession
- significant relationship, partner, spouse, courtship and marriage
- children and family life, including where family lived, friends
- community activities, achievements, causes, political beliefs, recreation, sports, hobbies, likes and dislikes, interest in music, poetry, arts, television, radio, animals, garden, nature, travel, holidays
- personality, sense of humour, personal characteristics
Now think about the stories you remember, or the turn of phrase or typical behavior that captures your loved one's character so well.
Talk with other family members and friends so the picture you present will include their ideas as well.
A theme gives unity to the eulogy, helping your listeners to see the rich patterns of this life.
For example, let's say you are giving the eulogy for an older woman who was very much the matriarch of her family.
As your theme, you decide to talk about her ability to make a home wherever she hung her hat.
Using this theme, you describe her challenging childhood, her eager arrival in Albury as a shy, young bride, and then how she made a warm and welcoming home for her family and their friends.
Another example, when speaking of a friend, you might mention the various roles your friend successfully played – Janet the sports mad fan; Janet the caring nurse; Janet the devoted wife and mother.
3. Draft your speech
From your notes draw out the major points. I find it best to write out exactly what I am going to say so that if I get teary I'll be able to pick up my place without having to think too hard about what it is I want to say.
Some people prefer point form so that they can elaborate as they go along.
Type up your first draft, editing as you go. Use linking sentences to make each topic flow easily into the next.
Pay most attention to your beginning and ending.
As you write and polish, keep the words "celebration" and "thanksgiving" in your mind. If it is appropriate, include a few moments of humour or lightheartedness.
4. Practice, practice, practice
If you are not used to public speaking, try your speech out in front of a friend or read the speech into a tape recorder and then play it back to hear how it sounds.
Then stand in front of a mirror and try presenting it to an imagined audience.
Remember to breathe.
If you are afraid you might break down, ask someone to be ready to take over at a signal from you.
Just knowing you have a backup speaker will probably be all you need to stay calm.