Advice and Suggestions
The Art of Writing a Eulogy
Catherine Kentridge conducts interfaith and other services in the Toronto area and has contributed a few notes that might be of help to you in writing a eulogy. These are written from the point of view of an officiant, but may give some insight. It’s a very difficult task, whether you’re friend, family, or colleague, and Catherine’s hope is that some of her suggestions will help you with the process and to write and speak something that is both meaningful and comforting—to you and to your listeners.
“I help with eulogies when I conduct services and find it of great benefit to meet with the family of the deceased and let people just talk, to come to terms with their grief, and to start working towards what they would like to say at the memorial service,” advises Catherine. A similar principle applies if you;’re writing a eulogy and don’t know where to start. Chances are, you haven’t written one before.
“If you’re providing information to someone, such as a minister, to refer to during the service or even include in their eulogy, it’s important to think about memories, anecdotes, and feelings. This is a time for people to recall and reflect on happy and sad times, and people often laugh and cry.”
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO REMEMBER ?
Think about what you’d like to include and would like to remember. If you’re instrumental in organizing the service, remember that this is an opportunity for the person to have their last words heard. “If you’re writing or talking about someone, try to avoid repetition when you talk about their habits or things they did. “As a big sister, Ann says that Carrie was always her heroine, someone she looked to for support and encouragement… Her nephew , Paul, was thrilled that his aunt Carrie came to so many soccer games, no matter the weather,to cheer him on.”
“When I write a eulogy, I try to pick out some characteristics or qualities—e.g. “Everyone who knew Carrie has anecdotes about the witty responses she would make, especially when someone asked her a question that she thought was impertinent… ( and give some examples.)”“The family and all the attendees at the service want to feel that you knew this person well— they don’t want to hear the usual platitudes.It is almost always possible to have something light-hearted to tell, some funny anecdote about the person; and the laughter helps those present to release some of their pain.I try to talk about the complete person, something along the lines of: “We are here to celebrate the life of a most remarkable, inspiring, pioneering and greatly loved woman, Carrie Doe, wife, mother, aunt
and friend.” I use whatever adjectives seem appropriate, and do not refer solely to my relationship with him or her.
I often conclude the service with something along the lines of, “Thank you for the comfort and support your presence here brings to Carrie’s family. All who knew her felt blessed by her friendship. They will cherish her memory and feel honored to have called her “wife,” “mother,” “friend”. May she rest in peace and live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved her and whom she loved... If possible, follow this considerate approach and avoid giving a list of dates, places and achievements, or sounding like a resumé, and be selective with autobiographical details. What people really want to hear is about the person that he or she was, his personality, her passions, how he or she felt about their families and friends, and how those people felt about him or her.
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