A Eulogy is a speech or a piece of writing which pays tribute to a loved one. Delivering a eulogy can be a way to highlight the impact someone had on the world and give them a lasting legacy. It is usually written and read aloud by a family member or close friend during a funeral or a memorial service. A Eulogy usually reflects on the person’s positive qualities, their life and the impact they had on their community.
The Eulogy is usually the responsibility of someone who is close to the person who has died but there is no strict rule around who makes the speech. It could be a surviving spouse, a child or a sibling. If the deceased has no surviving family members a close friend may decide to say a few words. If the deceased was a member of the Defence Force or Emergency Services one of their superiors may deliver the eulogy. If the family or friends are overcome with grief as a result of the death they may request a priest, minister or celebrant to give the eulogy instead.
A eulogy is typically between three and ten minutes long. But some funeral directors may allocate a specific time frame for the eulogy in the service. When writing your eulogy it is helpful to understand a written piece of around 1,000 to 2,000 words can take anywhere from 3.5 minutes to 10 minutes to read aloud. The basic guide below will help you to plan out your eulogy so you don’t stumble or end up red-faced in front of your loved ones.
In some situations it may be your style to try and improvise a speech but a funeral is not one of these scenarios. Write your speech and practice it in front of a mirror or your pet so you aren’t thrown off by anything complicated in front of the crowd. Make sure you print the speech with a large font and double spacing so the text is easy to read.
Speak to family, friends, colleagues and neighbours of the deceased to gather anecdotes, ask questions and build that information into your eulogy. The best eulogy is based on memories and shared experiences.
A eulogy should focus on the positive attributes of a person and reflect on the positive memories. Try to avoid dwelling on negative traits or judging the deceased. After all, their legacy should be a positive one, not a negative one - it is not an opportunity for a roast.
Once you have done the research and have a basic idea of what you are going to write you can follow the below template to create your eulogy.
1. Opening statement
You should begin your eulogy by introducing the person who has died. You might consider including a statement describing your relationship with the person. If you are not a family member this is a chance to talk about how you met, or first impressions. It will help provide context for the audience.
E.g. We are here today to mourn the loss of Caroline Smith. She touched all our lives as mother, sister, friend and colleague. I first met Caroline when we were just kids back at school and I was sitting by myself in the playground. She came up to me and asked if I wanted to be friends.
2. Describe their life
Then you can create a story about their life. Identify their full name, where they were born and their family background. You may decide to include details about school, education or work if those were big parts of their life. If they were not career oriented you may talk about community service, hobbies, or family.
E.g. Caroline Smith was born on July 5, 1991 in the small town of Berridale in the NSW Snowy Mountains. She was the youngest of four children and the daughter of John and Jane Smith. She went to Jindabyne public school where she decided to pursue a career as a ski instructor.
3. Reflect on the deceased’s achievements and positive attributes
After introductions, this is a chance to talk about the impact the deceased had on the world. You may like to talk about their hobbies, their passions and how they impacted the people around them.
E.g Caroline was the most adventurous person I ever met. She was always outside trying new extreme sports and dragging us along for the ride. Her passion for the outdoors inspired so many people to get active and try new things.
4. Share a personal story
You may like to describe how your relationship developed with the person and share a story, anecdote or fond memory you shared together.
E.g I remember the time Caroline planned an overnight hike in the Tasmanian wilderness and we got caught in a snow-storm. She helped navigate us to shelter and even had a thermos of hot chocolate and marshmallows to keep us warm and keep our spirits high while we waited out the storm.
5. Closing statement
Finish your speech with a simple statement to farewell the deceased. You might like to finish with a quote, poem, or song lyrics.
E.g We will miss you.
If you are still feeling stuck you may use a more structured template like the one below.
We are all here today for one reason: to celebrate the life of ________ (name of the deceased). ________ (name) came into my life when ________ (details of your meeting). Since then, I have come to realise ________ (name) was the most ________(adjective) person I’ve ever known. He/She ________ (include a memory or anecdote).
DETAILS OF THEIR LIFE
_________ (name) was born on ________ (birthdate) in _______ (city). He/She was the
______ (first, second, only) child of ________ (father) and ________ (mother). His/her sisters and brothers are ________, ________, and ________ (add more or less as needed). _________ (name) was an ________(adjective) child. (include information about how you met, or an anecdote from their family about their childhood if you didn’t grow up together).
THEIR IMPACT ON THE WORLD
_________ (name) had a lasting impact on everyone around them. In high school they developed a passion for ________ (hobby/passion) and it was obvious they were set to change the world in a positive way. When they left school they pursued this ________ (hobby/passion) and turned it into a career. Their love for ________ (hobby/passion) meant they were always ________ (adjective).
My favorite memory of ______ (name) is that time when ______ (memory). (try to tie this memory back to their character – how the deceased was as a person).
The loss of ______ (name) has been devastating for all of us. Even though ______ (name) is gone, we will always have fond memories of our time together.
Earl Spencer’s Funeral Oration for Princess Diana
“We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but rather in our need to do so. For such was her extraordinary appeal that the tens of millions of people taking part in this service all over the world via television and radio who never actually met her, feel that they too lost someone close to them in the early hours of Sunday morning. It is a more remarkable tribute to Diana than I can ever hope to offer her today.
Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity. All over the world, a standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a very British girl who transcended nationality. Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.
Bindi Irwin’s Eulogy for her father Steve Irwin
My Daddy was my hero – he was always there for me when I needed him. He listened to me and taught me so many things, but most of all he was fun. I know that Daddy had an important job. He was working to change the world so everyone would love wildlife like he did. He built a hospital to help animals and he bought lots of land to give animals a safe place to live.
He took me and my brother and my Mum with him all the time.
We filmed together, caught crocodiles together and loved being in the bush together. I don’t want Daddy’s passion to ever end. I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did.
I have the best Daddy in the whole world and I will miss him every day. When I see a crocodile I will always think of him and I know that Daddy made this zoo so everyone could come and learn to love all the animals. Daddy made this place his whole life and now it’s our turn to help Daddy.
Oprah Winfrey’s Eulogy for Rosa Parkes
I -- I feel it an honor to be here to come and say a final goodbye.
I grew up in the South, and Rosa Parks was a hero to me long before I recognized and understood the power and impact that her life embodied. I remember my father telling me about this colored woman who had refused to give up her seat. And in my child's mind, I thought, "She must be really big." I thought she must be at least a hundred feet tall. I imagined her being stalwart and strong and carrying a shield to hold back the white folks.
And then I grew up and had the esteemed honor of meeting her. And wasn't that a surprise. Here was this petite, almost delicate lady who was the personification of grace and goodness. And I thanked her then. I said, "Thank you," for myself and for every colored girl, every colored boy, who didn't have heroes who were celebrated. Continue reading.