Advice on delivering a eulogy.
October 17, 2005 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Do you have any advice on delivering a eulogy?

There is this thread, but it deals more with planning and didn't generate many responses, anyway. Specifically for a Catholic service, though any and all advice would be appreciated.
posted by ChasFile to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Be as specific and personal as possible. Tell stories. Elevate the trivial. I've suffered through 2 generic eulogies for relatives in the last couple of years, and all it did was make me angry. "She was a person of strong faith" sounds nice, but doesn't describe who my grandmother really was. I'd have appreciated a little more honesty, even if it meant revealing a few character flaws. In the wan light of grief, annoying habits become endearing eccentricities; it feels good to honor the person who really lived, and not some idealized version that never existed.
posted by junkbox at 12:50 PM on October 17, 2005

From what I've seen in Catholic memorial masses, eulogies are delivered after the gospel selection and a brief homily from the officiating priest. You don't have to make the eulogy relevant to the gospel. Unless the priest is familiar with the deceased and chooses to say something during the homily, there probably won't be any other point within the mass where personalized remembrance comes into play.

That said, some tactics: Choose stories that reflect the person's personality and character. Ask others for their thoughts about the person, and compile them to share. Read songs or poems or literary passages that are meaningful or relevant. Moments of levity will go over well, anything outside of tact obviously won't.

Writing something and placing it at the pulpit ahead of time is fine, and highly recommended.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2005

The only thing I remember about my grandmother's eulogy was the priest describing how he could always tell she was in line for the Eucharist, because he could hear the tinkling of the armful of bracelets she perpetually wore. It was such a wonderful detail that it captured so much about her -- her faith, her style, her position in her church. It was a lovely detail and I remember how much we all smiled and laughed when the priest said it -- a bit of joy in the midst of our grief.
posted by scody at 12:58 PM on October 17, 2005

From a Catholic funeral attendee, the more personal, the better. When my grandfather had his funeral mass, what stuck out was the oldest sibling speaking for all the other sons and daughters about his work ethic, how he pushed them to all go to college, and how succesful they had become. He put a personal spin about it saying my grandfather was in Heaven and still pushing them, as there was more to do. That got the laughs we all needed, as you had to know how much he pushed his kids at his general store in rural Mississippi then hit the books until bedtime.

Other funeral, for a best friend during first year of college, was made special by several friends not giving a spoken eulogy, but instead playing a Beatles song they all learned together on guitar. That meant more to our circle of friends then a teacher or neighbor saying he was a nice person and other general niceties.
posted by fijiwriter at 2:37 PM on October 17, 2005

For my grandfather's funeral (non-catholic) about a year ago there was about 6 or 7 speakers (my mother, sister, couple of cousins, aunts, an uncle). They eached talked for about 10-15 minutes and all had their own very different memories. It was very moving as they all presented some of their fondest memories, or funny stories, or things they thought defined my grandfather. I'm sure a lot of the memories had not been heard before, and it was nice that they had different generations shedding light on the type of person he was throughout his life. I would say the more personal the better, and see if anyone else wants to talk as different people will have very different memories and perspectives.
posted by curbstop at 2:52 PM on October 17, 2005

My cousin who is way more eloquent than me, gave this eulogy for my grandmother who was a difficult woman, even though we all loved her. Hearing about her growing up really softened my feelings for her at the time and into the future which I think is one of the kindest things a eulogy can do for someone you have a mixed relationship with.
posted by jessamyn at 3:05 PM on October 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Two of my uncles have died recently - both basically drank themselves to death. But their funerals were celebrations of their lives - warts and all. Happy memories were shared, big and small, and jokes were made of their varioius shortcomings. No one pretended my uncles were people they weren't. I think that's important. Don't dwell on negatives, but don't ignore them either. It's dishonest. Get personal. Talk about what you remember. Tell stories.
posted by clh at 3:11 PM on October 17, 2005

I think it's important that you find ways to show the side of that person you knew. If that side had bad moments, don't disregard them but use common sense. Otherwise, jokes work. Not cheesy jokes, no i'm talking about the ones that always made you remember that moment and time with the person.
posted by Dean Keaton at 3:42 PM on October 17, 2005

I wrote this for my friend Rick, who died in the Bali bombings in 2002. I didn't deliver it as a eulogy because I couldn't get back to Canada at the right time for his service, but I would have been proud to. A few of our friends apparently chose to read some bits of it on my behalf.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:28 PM on October 17, 2005

I treat Eulogies much like other "important speeches" (Best man's speech at weddings, etc.)

Eulogies will permit you to be funny, poignant and loving....find something intensely personal, almost trivial, and relate it to that person as a whole.

And speak from the heart.
posted by filmgeek at 5:12 PM on October 17, 2005

Write it out first. Don't read it when you give it. Practice beforehand. You'll be better prepared that way and it ought to come off more like you intend.
posted by whatisish at 5:49 PM on October 17, 2005

Here is the eulogy that I gave for my grandfather in 2003, if it's any help.
posted by tippiedog at 8:33 PM on October 17, 2005

"I lost more than just a bet today"...
How Not to Start a Eulogy
posted by growabrain at 11:06 PM on October 17, 2005

Don't go on too long. Be honest. Practice. If you can't bring yourself to say it or read it without cracking up, ask someone else.
posted by handee at 9:20 AM on October 18, 2005

« Older How can I rotate my display back to normal?   |   What rhymes with briny? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.