Life-time Funeral Eulogies

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!

Control

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!

Added benefit

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

DIY Funeral Eulogies

DIY Funeral Eulogies

When you think about it, wedding speeches and eulogies have much in common. They do have to be well-written and well-delivered, and neither of those areas tend to be many people’s strengths.  Moreover, grief can make the process even harder.

So here is some guidance to steer you to safety.

A quick and easy solution is to ask your celebrant to draw up a eulogy for you. You’ll have to supply the information and probably check and approve the draft , but that’s a good method – especially if you dread public speaking – and you may well be at your lowest ebb anyway at such a time.

Another possibility is to get a friend or relative, or even several, to deliver tributes. Nobody should be forced into this, but, if they agree, they should be warned to keep the tribute reasonably short (1-2 minutes each, tops), to the point (rambling interminably spoils the moment) and well-delivered (slow and clear).

For anybody planning to do their own speech writing, I hope the following hints will help.

Think about your audience

  • Be aware of the fact that there may be issues that would be better left unsaid (family animosities, for example)
  • You may well feel mournful, but you can also focus on the uplifting and inspiring. Many people prefer a celebration of life, and a joke need not be seen as inappropriate, although we’re not talking about comedy routines!
  • People will want to hear nice things about the deceased, but everybody is human. It may be fine to mention one or two idiosyncrasies about the deceased. However, saying somebody was “a bit difficult at times” or “they could be obstinate on occasion” gets the message across in a better way than saying “he/she was a complete b***”!

A couple of minutes (2-4) is probably enough.

The person

In most cases, you will want to cover the main biographical parts of the deceased’s life (people will be there who know only one side of that life, probably). However, an account like that risks being quite dry. A few well-chosen stories can really (no pun intended) bring the deceased to life.

So aim at covering the qualities of the person, and also something encompassing happy, funny, unusual, even sad events that sum up their life.

The script

It’s worth writing a full script (experienced and confident speakers may get by with notes, and a few can talk fluently impromptu, but I don’t advise this in the majority of cases). You should practise reading it, preferably to someone you know quite well, who can tell you if your words are coming across as you mean.

Start, middle and end

You can leave the beginning till you have written the other parts, but when you do, it’s probably best to start by going straight for the point. It might just be to thank the guests for their support.

You can end with something short by way of conclusion (possibly a phrase addressed directly to the deceased).

 

Delivery

  • Practise reading your eulogy beforehand.
  • Stand when giving the eulogy.
  • Come dressed appropriately.
  • Try and stand still when speaking, and appear as calm as you can.
  • Look up periodically at your audience (so they feel involved). Mark your place with a finger as you look away!
  • Speak slowly. (You’re bound to be nervous, and we often accelerate under those circumstances.) You project better that way – and also you (and your audience) will have time to think about what you are saying.

Nobody will blame you if you are overcome with emotion. It’s perfectly natural. Give yourself a couple of moments before carrying on. (If you really can’t, and you have a script, then your celebrant can take over.)

To sum up, you don’t have to have a eulogy at all. If you do want one, involve the celebrant, by all means. Alternatively, you can invite people close to the deceased. But if you do it yourself, I hope the advice I offer will be helpful to you.

Speech Writing

Speech Writing

Continuing the jolly theme I started last week of dealing with funerals, I promised to discuss eulogies, and I will not let you down!

Of course, there is nothing wrong with asking your celebrant to draw up a eulogy for you. You’ll have to supply the information and probably check and approve the draft , but that’s a good solution – especially if you dread public speaking – and you may well be at your lowest ebb anyway at such a time.

Another possibility is to get a friend or relative, or even several, to deliver tributes. Nobody should be forced into this, but, if they agree, they should be warned to keep the tribute reasonably short (1-2 minutes each, tops), to the point (rambling interminably spoils the moment) and well-delivered (slow and clear).

For anybody planning to do their own speech writing, I hope the following hints will help.

Think about your audience

  • Be aware of the fact that there may be issues that would be better left unsaid (family animosities, for example)
  • You may well feel mournful, but you can also focus on the uplifting and inspiring. Many people prefer a celebration of life, and a joke need not be seen as inappropriate, although we’re not talking about comedy routines!
  • People will want to hear nice things about the deceased, but everybody is human. It may be fine to mention one or two idiosyncrasies about the deceased. However, saying somebody was “a bit difficult at times” or “they could be obstinate on occasion” gets the message across in a better way than saying “he/she was a complete b***”!

A couple of minutes (2-4) is probably enough.

The person

In most cases, you will want to cover the main biographical parts of the deceased’s life (people will be there who know only one side of that life, probably). However, an account like that risks being quite dry. A few well-chosen stories can really (no pun intended) bring the deceased to life.

So aim at covering the qualities of the person, and also something encompassing happy, funny, unusual, even sad events that sum up their life.

The script

It’s worth writing a full script (experienced and confident speakers may get by with notes, and a few can talk fluently impromptu, but I don’t advise this in the majority of cases). You should practise reading it, preferably to someone you know quite well, who can tell you if your words are coming across as you mean.

Start, middle and end

You can leave the beginning till you have written the other parts, but when you do, it’s probably best to start by going straight for the point. It might just be to thank the guests for their support.

You can end with something short by way of conclusion (possibly a phrase addressed directly to the deceased).

Source: northvancouverfuneral.com

Delivery

  • Practise reading your eulogy beforehand.
  • Stand when giving the eulogy.
  • Come dressed appropriately.
  • Try and stand still when speaking, and appear as calm as you can.
  • Look up periodically at your audience (so they feel involved). Mark your place with a finger as you look away!
  • Speak slowly. (You’re bound to be nervous, and we often accelerate under those circumstances.) You project better that way – and also you (and your audience) will have time to think about what you are saying.

Nobody will blame you if you are overcome with emotion. It’s perfectly natural. Give yourself a couple of moments before carrying on. (If you really can’t, and you have a script, then your celebrant can take over.)

To sum up, you don’t have to have a eulogy at all. If you do want one, involve the celebrant, by all means. Alternatively, you can invite people close to the deceased. But if you do it yourself, I hope the advice I offer will be helpful to you.

 

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.

Anyone for a funeral?

I have just done something that I suppose most of you have not wanted to do or ever done before.

Although a layman, but celebrant-trained, I recently conducted my first funeral. There! Not everyone can make such a claim!

From a celebrant point of view, the whole affair took about a week.

The family visit

Having been called by the Funeral Directors with the relevant details, I rang the next-of-kin and arranged an appointment the next day. While there, I spent about three quarters of an hour with the family. Although we talked about the arrangements they wanted for the day, the most important thing for me was to ask about, and gain a picture of, the deceased.

My ‘homework’

After my visit, I started to plan the order of service according to what the family had requested. In this case, apart from a hymn, the whole service was to be secular, and there would be a child reading a piece (which I chose for him). It was a matter of finding appropriate readings (I also found a poem that seemed tailor-made for this particular funeral) from the internet and my own resources.

The other thing to do was to write a eulogy, to last around 5 minutes.

Having done all this, I e-mailed the entire draft to the family. They came back, with a couple of corrections and a suggestion. These were incorporated, and that was, mostly, that until the funeral itself.

The funeral service

Despite a big bout of nerves beforehand, I am relieved to say that it appeared to go smoothly and satisfactorily for all concerned.

I am now looking forward to my next funeral next week. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to offer the family exactly what they want at such a difficult time.

 

Michael Gordon is a celebrant based in London.