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Help with eulogies and tributes

Advice to those writing and delivering a eulogy or tribute.

The word eulogy comes from the Latin, eulogism, meaning praise. A eulogy, often referred to as the tribute, is a celebration of a life, and can turn a day of loss into a day of uplifting reflection and memories.

A few tips

A eulogy does not have to be formal or comprehensively biographical, but should reflect your personal thoughts and memories.  Here are a few tips:

  • Write from the heart...it does not have to be perfect;
  • Accept that you might be affected by emotions - the mourners will understand and be sympathetic;
  • Use affectionate humour where appropriate;
  • Talk to family members and friends who are willing to share their memories of the deceased;
  • Include references to other family members and friends;
  • Deliver it slowly and look up making eye contact with appropriate members of the audience;
  • Keep it short;
  • Have a copy in front of you or some prompt cards;
  • Rehearse it two or three times;
  • If you think you are likely to be overcome by the emotion, have a second person ready to take over.

Memorable eulogies

There are some eulogies that stand out in our memories, for example, Earl Spencer speaking at the funeral of his sister Princess Diana.

Another useful collection is In Tribute - Eulogies of Famous People by Ted Tobias.

Not all eulogies strike a note of reverent solemnity. They are as individual as the people they are honouring.

There is sometimes a place and a role for a more humorous approach to eulogies and an example of this is the speech John Cleese delivered at the memorial service to commemorate his fellow Python, Graham Chapman. This can be viewed on Youtube.

One of the finest recent eulogies was that paid to political journalist Anthony Howard by writer Robert Harris. You can read it here.

Properly remembered

If you are planning your own funeral, you can make sure the eulogy and tribute is organised in advance so that it is an accurate and fitting tribute.

You should choose a close friend or suitable relative who you think will be the best person to deliver it.

The two of you can do a first draft, and put it into your Lifebox. It can be amended whenever convenient.

Then, on your death, it can be part of your funeral arrangements to be acted on by your executor who will be given the key to your vault.

By planning this in advance you can have the words of the eulogy or tribute printed on the Order sheet so that it is part of your memorial.

The digital Order sheet can be stored in your Lifebox. On your death, it will be opened by your executor or by whoever you give access and the Order sheet and instructions for the reading of the tributes will be available to be used at your funeral, or that of a loved one.

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