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How To Write A Eulogy

Remembering someone special in a personal way can be healing for everyone concerned, for a eulogy is a deeply personal way of saying goodbye. The key word is life, and you've been given the opportunity to celebrate a loved one's life in the individual way that made your friend unique. Don't be daunted by the task, just take these simple steps for a sincere and moving last farewell.

To prepare a eulogy, you will need to be well prepared. The eulogy should convey your feelings and your experiences and should be written in an informal, conversational tone. It's not for summarising the person's life and it doesn't have to speak for all present. Just sit down and write from your heart. So, where do you start?

1. Get your material

First, collect some biographical facts : age, working life, marriage dates, places lived, children, and so on. Ask the family, they will welcome the chance to talk about their loved one. Then collect personal facts : special skills and accomplishments, characteristics, hobbies, etc. Now think about the stories you remember, or the turn of phrase or typical behavior that captures a person's character so well.

Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • How did you and the deceased become close? When did you meet?
  • What's a humourous or touching event that sticks in your mind. Does it represent the individuality of your friend?
  • What did you most like and admire about the deceased?
  • What will you miss most about this person?
  • What will you always remember?

Some of the simplest thoughts are deeply touching. For example, "I'll miss his crooked grin " "I'll always remember her bubbling laugh". These warm touches will bring loving memories to those who are listening. Some of the best memorial services are filled with fond remembrances and laughter. Poetry is inspirational, and also of great assistance in writing a eulogy.

2. Organise your material

Write your notes in point form on sheets of paper or on 3x5 file cards - one idea to a card. Now group the cards into piles of similar topics. Then sort each pile of cards into a logical order. Write your first draft. Use linking sentences to make each topic flow easily into the next. Pay most attention to your beginning and ending. As you write, edit and polish, keep the words "celebration" and "thanksgiving" in your mind.

3. Practice!

If you're not used to speaking in public, start practicing. Run an Internet search on 'speaking tips' or borrow a book on speaking from the library. Read your speech into a tape and then play it back. You'll be able to polish your eulogy and your delivery. Now stand in front of a mirror and practice some more. Even someone who has never spoken in public at all will do a good job with practice.

4. How do you keep calm?

It doesn't sound easy, but you can do it. If you're worried about choking up or breaking down in the middle of your eulogy, you can take a moment to compose yourself, then carry on. This is perfectly acceptable. If you're afraid you might break down while in the middle of the eulogy and find yourself unable to recover, ask someone ahead of time to be ready to take over at a signal from you. Give them a copy of your eulogy. Just knowing you have a backup speaker will probably be all you need to stay calm.

Above all, remember to breathe

You'll only have to speak for five to ten minutes, but your gift will live on in the hearts of the deceased's family and friends

Susanna Duffy is a Civil Celebrant, grief counsellor and mythologist. She creates ceremonies and Rites of Passage for individual and civic functions, and specialises in Croning and other celebrations for women. http://celebrant.yarralink.com

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