The idea of life-time funeral eulogies doesn’t, at first sight, make a lot of sense. Why would you have a eulogy when still alive? What’s the point?
A good turn
You may not care much what happens at your funeral. Once you’re dead, that’s probably it. Let your family work out what they want to include and exclude, can’t they?
However, for the next-of-kin, quite a lot has to happen – normally, in a fairly short length of time (about 10 days). This includes the legal bits (obtaining the medical certificate and then registering the death). It probably also includes organising the funeral itself and the reception or wake.
Then, ordinary life still has to go on. And, more significantly, the next-of-kin may well be in a state of shock – it could be grief, anger, bewilderment, depression, resentment – and that makes the whole process more traumatic and difficult.
What if the deceased (or the family) had already planned the funeral service – or, at least, the eulogy? Then there would be no doubts about how religious the service should be, or who should participate. This would resolve awkward questions – and avoid disagreements and arguments at such a difficult time.
If all this were already settled, what a good turn that would prove to be for the next-of-kin!
One other reason why I, as a civil celebrant, sometimes get asked to write a lifetime funeral is because the client is very definite about what they want for the big day. Religion is a huge factor in this – they may absolutely reject the idea of mentioning God, or they want a jolly celebration of life with their own choice of music, say, or readings.
If I get asked to write a lifetime eulogy, then the client can be in control of what goes in – and what is omitted! This way, the facts are almost guaranteed to be right (though sometimes a little nuanced!), and an appropriate picture is painted. The tone can be chosen and any rituals specified. The venue can also be specified.
It has to be noted that what you choose is not legally enforceable. You can leave instructions with the will, but these may not be opened in time. Your wishes may be ignored. It is best to inform next-of-kin of your wishes (and leave a copy with them). It’s even better if you discuss all this with them first, so they are ‘on side’ when the time comes!
When I started out as a funeral celebrant, I decided to write a eulogy about myself, by way of practice. What I discovered was that it was a useful exercise for another reason.
By writing out what I had achieved in my life, I was forced to consider more deeply what I had always taken for granted.
I have always had some problems with self-esteem. By actually describing what I had done in my life, I came to realise that I had done a few things that I had good reason to be proud of. That really helped my self-development.
I would therefore recommend to anyone that they go through this process. They can do it themselves, or invite a civil celebrant to ask the necessary questions and put it together for them.
It may well help their self-esteem, but it may also prove to be a benefit for their next-of-kin and, of course, ensure that what they want to emerge from their life is what is revealed publicly.
For advice on any of the above issues, Michael would be delighted to help.
Top picture: Aaron Burden