Eulogies and Tributes
A Eulogy is an account of the person’s life story. A Tribute is a reflection of your interaction with the person at a specific time or place. It is an honour to be asked to deliver either a eulogy or a tribute.
Writing a Eulogy
A eulogy is a speech given at a funeral or memorial service honouring the deceased. For some, giving a eulogy may be too painful, especially if the death was unexpected or the deceased is very young. A family friend can give the eulogy instead of a family member, or the celebrant/clergy can do so. Even if the celebrant delivers the eulogy, he or she will ask you questions about the deceased prior to the funeral in order to elaborate on the life and personality of the deceased when giving the eulogy. Alternatively, a family member may write the eulogy and have the celebrant read this on their behalf.
While a eulogy is not mandatory, it can be the most important part of the service. Many attendees may not know the deceased well or may have only known the deceased for a portion of his or her life. A eulogy is an opportunity to share your love for the deceased and shed light on what he/she was like as a person. It also helps those who did know and love the deceased to come to grips with their grief.
For many, giving a eulogy is awkward and uncomfortable. You may find yourself rushing through your speech in an effort to get it over with. Try to resist this urge. Read your eulogy slowly and clearly, so that everyone can hear what you have to say.
Structure of a Eulogy
The key to an effective eulogy is to keep it personal, in a warm, conversational tone. It is advisable to keep anecdotes in an organized chronological order. Family members can be the best resource when writing a eulogy. They can help recall historical events and highlight any other poignant moments or fond memories. Photos, social media accounts and the deceased’s home/belongings help portray who they were as a person. Avoid any disrespectful or embarrassing stories about the deceased. These may be better recalled in private conversations.
A eulogy should be 5 – 10 minutes in duration. Keep it concise, and practice reading the eulogy to ensure it is not too long. A written eulogy helps to keep you focused and on topic. A larger font is easier to follow/refer to. Consider attendees who may have taken time off work to attend the funeral and may be limited on time.
Opening remarks (introduce yourself and your connection to the deceased).
If you are an immediate family member, thank people for coming (especially those that me have travelled). If you are not a family member, express your condolences to the family. Acknowledge those unable to attend, who may be joining the service via livestreaming.
Reflect on the deceased’s life. You may wish to mention the parents of the deceased and where they were born, schooled, spent their early life, siblings.
Share significant life events such as education/graduation, marriage, children, career, and achievements. Mention any loved pets, and dear friends.
Talk about the deceased’s interests, hobbies, talents. Be sure to mention any community service, club affiliations, service roles to honour the deceased.
Any personal anecdotes. You may choose to add a little humorous recollection, as this can ease some tension, and add some insight into the life of the deceased.
If the deceased was religious, talk about his/her commitment to their faith.
Was the deceased a role model? How did they influence you?
Conclude with words of comfort, a heartfelt message and perhaps a final farewell in closing.
Writing a Tribute
A tribute is generally 2-3 minutes in duration. The purpose of a tribute is to express respect and admiration for the deceased.
Begin by introducing yourself and how you knew the deceased.
Choose the topic of your tribute and discuss with others giving tributes so that you do not repeat the same memories.
It’s perfectly okay to ask other speakers what they plan on sharing, to avoid such repetition. Each speaker should share a personal reminiscence about the deceased. If you knew the deceased through work, share a memory of him/her at work. If you knew the deceased through a sport or hobby, share a story or memory of your time together.
Conclude with a message for the family or a farewell to the deceased.