How to Write a Eulogy?
Journalist Peggy Noonan said, “I love eulogies. They are the most moving kind of speech because they attempt to pluck meaning from the fog, and on short order, when the emotions are still ragged and raw and susceptible to leaps.”
While writing a eulogy and sharing it with funeral service guests is a noble gesture, that is worthy of thought and effort, it can not only be a challenge to write–if you’re not comfortable in front of a crowd of people–it can be equally as challenging to deliver.
However, it is an opportunity to make a contribution to a memorial service, a contribution that your friends and family will remember for a long time. For that reason, if you are asked to write one, we suggest you consider doing so, if only for yourself.
What Should Your Eulogy Accomplish?
Let’s think of the eulogy as being much simpler. It should convey the feelings and experiences of the person giving the eulogy. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from a subjective point of view and from the heart. So don't feel compelled to write your loved one's life story.
Instead, tell your story.
Clearly, the burden of the eulogy does not have to be yours completely. If you have the time, ask friends or relatives for their recollections and stories.
Honesty is very important. In most cases, there will be a lot of positive qualities to talk about. Once in a while, however, there is someone with more negative traits than positive qualities. If that is the case, remember, you don't have to say everything if it would make you, or the guests uncomfortable. Just be honest as you can, and do your best to show the full humanity – both the good, and the not-so-good, characteristics of the deceased. After all, everyone there knew them, and is there because they want to acknowledge their relationship to the deceased. In other words, you have a “warm” audience, who will welcome your words.
Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter
Two examples of excellent eulogies are the ones for Steve Irwin delivered by his daughter Bindi Irwin and his friend Russell Crowe. In both eulogies, the remarks are brief but focus on the connection they each had to Steve Irwin and what he meant to them.
Irwin was best known as “The Crocodile Hunter” and was an Australian nature expert. Besides, being a popular television personality around the world, he also owned and operated Australia Zoo alongside his wife, Terri.
The eulogy delivered by Bindi Irwin can be found here.
The eulogy delivered by Russell Crowe can be found here.
We’ve collected a few excerpts from the eulogy to serve as an example of how to write a eulogy.
"I hope somebody will speak today of the specifics of what Steve achieved as a conservationist, but all I can do today is talk directly to my friend, my mate, Steven.
Your passing has suspended reality for all of us. It was way too soon, and completely unfair on all accounts. I know as humble as you always were, that you would still be pleased to know that the world sends its love and that people all over this planet have been grieving. We’ve all lost a friend, we’ve lost a champion, and we’re gonna take some time adjusting to that.
I’m in New York, mate – the big city – and you have been headline news on CNN for a week. There are not many Zoo keepers who would command that attention, mate. And all that means is that you got your message across. You got the word out there. And you were heard. And you will be remembered."
The opening lines of the eulogy show how deeply saddened Russell Crowe was about the passing of his close friend. This excerpt does an excellent job of showing how a eulogy does not always have to speak only about the achievements of the deceased. Rather than go on and on about Steve Irwin’s accomplishments, Russell Crowe says he’ll let someone else talk about what Steve achieved and instead wants to speak from his heart about what this loss means and the impact it has had on people around the world.
"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."
For her eulogy, Bindi does an excellent job talking about what her dad was passionate about, her favorite parts about spending time with him, and how she will remember him. She mentions that her dad was her hero and how she learned so much from him during their brief time together.
A common misconception many people have is that a eulogy must be long and tell the person’s life story. Instead, Bindi talks about the impact her dad made and how she is going to help continue his legacy and promote his beliefs and ideals to the world. She does an excellent job of speaking from her heart and is focused more on what her dad did for her rather than what everyone else thought of him.
Don’t Strive for Perfection – You’ll Make Yourself Crazy
Remember, you do not have to write a perfect eulogy. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people at the funeral. If you are inclined to be a perfectionist, lower your expectations and just do what you can, considering the short time frame for preparation and your emotional state.
Should you need any more eulogy advice, just call us.