There are not too many people I know who like the idea of having to give a eulogy, myself included. It’s not that we don’t have wonderful thoughts and memories of the person who died; it’s just that not everyone probably wants to hear how Uncle Walt taught us to pick a lock and build homemade firecrackers. Finding the right thing to say and then sharing it in front of others can be a nerve-wracking experience, let alone having to do it while coping with our own grief.
Over the years, I have come to understand that a eulogy is about not only honoring the deceased, but also strengthening the connection with those who remain. Remember that not everyone in the room had the same experiences you did with Uncle Walt. What did he look like through your eyes? What moments did you share that affected your life? These personal snapshots add to everyone else’s scrapbook of emotions and often help connect us to each other in ways we might otherwise have overlooked.
As for preparing a eulogy, if you search the internet on the subject, you will get more than 3.7 million hits from experts and amateurs alike; and while I have not visited even a fraction of those sites, I can tell you from my experience as a funeral director that delivering a eulogy has less to do with following professionally written guidelines than it does following your heart.
A eulogy should be, after all, as unique as the person you are honoring, so for anyone thinking about running out to buy the book “101 Heartfelt Eulogies with Easy Fill-in-the-Blank Format”, you can put your wallets away. I guarantee that nobody, especially the person who asked you to speak, wants to hear a Hallmark version of their loved one’s life. They want to hear yours.
Being asked to give a eulogy is an honor and is, to some extent, a remarkable responsibility; so looking for guidance and wanting to be prepared is a good start. While you are clicking through the googles of webpages, however, keep in mind that there is no one right way when it comes to giving a eulogy. If you are normally someone who operates best when prepared, then drafting a formal copy, verifying facts and rehearsing your presentation in front of a mirror would probably work for you. But if even thinking about your 4th grade oral report makes your palms start to sweat, you will probably do better with a semi-impromptu format; whereby you have gone over an outline of your speech in your head, but leave room for spontaneity during the delivery. In either extreme or if you fall somewhere between, I have found that the most important component in any eulogy is Sincerity.
So whether or not you have advanced public speaking skills, whether you use notes, forget Aunt Millie’s name or are overcome with emotion and realize you have no tissues handy, what matters is that you keep it real. Convey your love as best you can …and maybe invite everyone back to your place to set off some homemade firecrackers.