When you have the final word.
The word “eulogy” originated from the Greek word “eulogia” which means “praise” or “blessing.” The word is derived from the Greek roots “eu” (meaning “good”) and “logos” (meaning “word” or “speech”). The tradition originated from ancient Greece, where it was common for friends and family members to deliver a speech in honour of the deceased during their funeral or memorial service. These speeches, known as “funeral orations,” were intended to celebrate the life and achievements of the deceased, offer comfort and support to their loved ones, and provide a sense of closure and finality to the mourning process.
Over time, the practice of delivering eulogies spread throughout many cultures and religions, and it has become an important part of the funeral and memorial traditions in many parts of the world. Nowadays, there are several modern ways to present a eulogy, including:
- Video Eulogy: A pre-recorded video of the eulogy, which can be played at the funeral or shared online.
- Virtual Eulogy: A eulogy delivered via video conferencing, allowing people from all over the world to participate in the funeral service.
- Social Media Eulogy: A tribute or eulogy posted on social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, which can be shared with a wide audience.
- Collaborative Eulogy: A eulogy created by multiple people, who share their memories and stories to create a comprehensive tribute to the deceased.
- Interactive Eulogy: A eulogy that includes interactive elements, such as a slideshow of photos or a memory book that guests can write in.
- It’s important to remember that the most important thing is to honor the memory of the deceased in a way that feels authentic and meaningful to those who knew them best.
Writing a eulogy for someone you loved can be a challenging but meaningful task. Here are some steps to help you get started:
Gather your thoughts and memories
Think about the person you want to eulogize and recall your fondest memories and experiences with them. Celebrate some of the highlights and unique qualities of the loved one and their life in the eulogy. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide what to share and celebrate about the loved one:
- What makes them the most unique in your family or community?
- What was their special gift or what special qualities did they have?
- What is something they accomplished that really mattered to them?
- Did they have any children? Were they in a relationship? Did they have a meaningful career?
- What will they be remembered for the most?
Write it down
You don’t have to read it word-for-word at its delivery, but it does help you create a more precise, digestible eulogy. Start with a strong opening that captures the essence of the person and their life, followed by the body of the eulogy where you share your memories and thoughts. End with a meaningful conclusion that would honour their legacy and impact in life. Read through your draft and make any necessary edits or revisions. Pay attention to the tone, clarity, and flow of your eulogy. Get feedback. Ask a friend or family member to look your eulogy over before you deliver it.
Consider the tone and structure
A eulogy can be serious or lighthearted, but should be respectful and sincere. Decide on the structure that best suits your message, such as chronological, thematic, or anecdotal. Sometimes, we try to write things that won’t offend anyone. But in trying to please everyone, we sometimes end up pleasing no one. A good speech requires unique elegance and authenticity.
Practice delivering the eulogy
Read your eulogy out loud to get a sense of how it will sound when spoken. Make any final adjustments as needed. Recording yourself on video to review could help you ensure that you are using your hands and body to offer the eulogy, instead of delivering it with everything still and stiff, but not fidgeting or moving around too much. Remember that writing a eulogy is a personal and emotional experience, and that you could ask for help or take breaks as needed. Don’t forget to slow down and breathe. If you feel yourself speeding up, take a deep breath and slow down.
Families and communities are different and require different approaches, but there are some general guidelines on what not to say in a eulogy:
- Avoid talking about controversial or divisive topics such as politics, religion, or personal beliefs that may offend the family and friends of the deceased.
- Do not dwell on the negative aspects of the person’s life, including their flaws or mistakes. Instead, focus on their positive qualities and achievements.
- It would be fine to use a few funny anecdotes, but avoid making inappropriate jokes as this may come across as disrespectful. Some families could welcome more informal eulogies.
- Avoid sharing private or embarrassing stories that may be uncomfortable for the family and friends of the deceased.
- Do not make the eulogy about yourself. It is important to keep the focus on the deceased and their life.
- Close the eulogy with wisdom or inspiration. People usually remember the first and last things you say in a speech. So, close with something memorable. Think about closing the eulogy for your loved one with a powerful quote, a few words of wisdom that they have shared with you, a few words that bring hope and inspiration to others or something straight from your heart.
As an example, we would like to share some of the words of Steve Jobs’ sister, from his memorial service in 2011. What makes the eulogy even more special is the knowledge that Steve Jobs and Mona Simpson did not meet until they were adults, because he was given up for adoption at birth before his sister was born. The eulogy was an attempt to put into words the essence of the genius: his humility and hard work, his love of learning and his family. Below are a few points from the eulogy:
- Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.
- He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures.
- He was the opposite of absent-minded.
- Even when he was emotionally shattered he still went to work.
- After his liver transplant, when he couldn’t talk, he sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment.
- Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.
- He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks.
- He liked people his own age.
- He was willing to be misunderstood.
- He was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic.
- He remained humble and liked to keep learning.
- He spoke reverently about colleges.
- He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. Songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer.
- He treasured happiness. He was an intensely emotional man.
- Love was his supreme virtue. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him. His abiding love for his wife sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere.
What she had learned from her brother’s death was that character is essential, and this is what her eulogy was focused on. “Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.” Mona Simpson Visit our website if you need information or guidance https://sonjasmith-funerals.co.za/