Category Archives: Eulogy

How to write a eulogy

Princess Diana had the most publicized funeral in history. It was broadcast worldwide. The most powerful part was the eloquent and moving eulogy delivered by her brother, Charles Spencer. At one point he said, “I don’t think she ever understood why…there appeared to be a permanent quest on (the media’s) behalf to bring her down….Of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest is that a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.”

Great eulogies make great funerals. Of course, it’s absurd to think of a funeral as great, but some are memorable. Eulogies can be remarkable, moving experiences for speakers and audience members. You might assume eulogies are as common as flowers at memorial services. Unfortunately, this is not so. Not all families are able to find someone who is willing and able to write and deliver a eulogy. Some funerals go without; others rely on clergy who may not have known the deceased. The results can be disappointing.

None of us likes to contemplate the loss of a loved one or the call to duty to deliver a eulogy. Reading this article now, however, you will gain a brighter perspective on this task and discover the benefits of the writing process as a healing tool

What A Eulogy Should Accomplish

There are two common misconceptions about the purpose of a eulogy. Some people think 1) it should be an objective summation of the person’s life; or 2) the eulogy should speak for everyone who is present at the memorial service. These are unrealistic assumptions.

A eulogy is much more simple. Of course, it can include information about the person’s life, but primarily it should express the feelings and experiences of the person giving the eulogy vis-à-vis the loved one. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are subjective and written from the heart. Aeulogy does not have to be perfect. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people in attendance. If you are inclined to be a perfectionist, lower your expectations and just do what you can, given the short time-frame for preparation and your fragile emotional state.

When you set out to write a eulogy, realize the burden does not have to be yours alone. Ask friends and relatives for their recollections and stories. In a eulogy, it is perfectly acceptable to say, for example, “I was talking to Uncle Lenny about Ron. He reminded me of the time Ron came to Thanksgiving dinner with half of his face clean-shaven and the other half fully-bearded. It was Ron’s unique way of showing he had mixed feelings about shaving off his beard.”

Be honest. For most people, there are a lot of positive qualities to talk about. Once in a while, however, a eulogy has to be given for someone with mostly negative traits. If that is the case, omission is the solution. A eulogy is not a confession. No one will find fault if you leave out negative details. Talk about positive qualities and, if you must mention the negative, try to put a compassionate spin on it. For example, “She struggled with her demons and they sometimes got the best of her.”

Tips For Delivering A Eulogy

A eulogy may be the most difficult speech you ever deliver, but it may also be the most rewarding. Calm yourself by realizing that people are not going to judge you. They will be very supportive. No matter what happens, it will be okay. If you need to cry in the middle of your speech, everyone will understand. Take a moment to compose yourself, then continue. Don’t be embarrassed. Remember, giving a eulogy is a noble gesture that people will appreciate, admire, and remember.

If you can, make the eulogy easy to read. On a computer, print out the eulogy in a large type size. If you are using a typewriter, put extra carriage returns between the lines. If you are writing by hand, print the final version in large letters and give the words room to breath by writing on every second or third line.

Before the memorial service, consider getting a cup of water. Keep it with you during the service. When you go to the podium, take the water in case you need it. Sipping water before you start-and during the speech, if needed-will help relax you.

Before delivering the eulogy, breath deeply and remind yourself that you are surrounded by loving friends and family. They are with you 100 percent. If you would find it easier, read the eulogy without looking up to make eye contact with the audience. Take your time. Do the best you can. Just be yourself.

Writing As Therapy

Writing in general-a eulogy, a letter, a journal-presents a valuable opportunity to discover a new therapeutic tool to help you deal with grief, sadness, ambivalence, confusion or other needs for change. On some level, you already know how therapeutic writing can be. At one time you may have written an angry letter and not mailed it, but felt better for having written it. In the case of a eulogy, writing brings up memories, rekindles feelings, and acts as a catalyst. It has been said, “The only way out is through.” Writing helps you revisit emotions that are important to the healing process, so get your feelings on paper. You do not have to be grieving to use writing as a tool to help you gain clarity on an issue or to motivate yourself to make changes in your life.

There are many ways to use writing to deal with your loss. Some people keep journals or diaries; others write letters. Some people send e-mail to friends; others write poems or stories. There is no right answer. Experiment. Do what works for you.

Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist’s Way, tells aspiring artists to set aside time each morning to write. She calls it, “morning papers.” You can call it, “mourning papers.” Every morning take the time to write three pages of thoughts and feelings. Write long-hand rather than using a typewriter or computer because there is a better connection between the hand and the heart. While writing, don’t concern yourself with spelling, grammar, punctuation, being redundant, or making sense. Write half-baked ideas, thoughts, or feelings if you want. The goal is not to write something good or something that will ever be read again. The goal is to write simply for the sake of getting it out of your system.

Mourning papers can cover anything-complaints, dreams, frustrations, feelings, and so on. Nothing is too trivial. Complain about the barking dog next door. Write about your life’s dreams or sorrows. Create a grocery list. Brainstorm goals. Unburden yourself of pain, sorrow, fears, and regrets. You can think long-term and create a better life for yourself or you can work on immediate needs. The only rule is there are no rules. Let whatever is on your mind flow onto the paper.

This is a very powerful exercise during which you will make several discoveries:

*The process is enjoyable.

*Your thoughts will flow quickly and the important ones will be pushed to the surface with great force.

*It is easy to fill up three pages.

*You might have to stop to cry, especially if you are mourning or in pain.

*The process frees you of petty complaints and obsessions.

*You will look forward to these morning writing sessions.

Bringing up the pain, although unpleasant, is part of working through it. I’m not a therapist, but from experience I know that repressing feelings is counter-productive. Shakespeare once wrote, “Tears water our growth.” The power of writing is undeniable and there is no better time than now to take advantage of it.

Writing and delivering a eulogy is a noble gesture that is worthy of thought and effort. It is an opportunity to make a contribution to a memorial service-a contribution that you, your friends and family will long remember. Think of a eulogy as a gift to yourself and others. Embrace the opportunity to brighten an otherwise dark time.

Garry Schaeffer is the author of “A Labor of Love: How To Write A Eulogy.” This 96-page book has helped thousands of people since 1995. It includes: a “How-To” section with writing tips and short-cuts; sample eulogies of famous people, including Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Princess Diana and others; poems for memorial services; and much more.

Article and photo courtesy

When you create a Lifebook for your loved one, you can upload the audio eulogy from the funeral so that people who ere unable to attend can hear the eulogy and you ill have it stored for years to come.


John Cleese’s Eulogy for Graham Chapman

Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch,’ is no more.

He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.

Well, I feel that I should say, “Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries. ”

And the reason I think I should say this is, he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste. I could hear him whispering in my ear last night as I was writing this:

“Alright, Cleese, you’re very proud of being the first person to ever say ‘shit’ on television. If this service is really for me, just for starters, I want you to be the first person ever at a British memorial service to say ‘fuck’!”

You see, the trouble is, I can’t. If he were here with me now I would probably have the courage, because he always emboldened me. But the truth is, I lack his balls, his splendid defiance. And so I’ll have to content myself instead with saying ‘Betty Mardsen…’

But bolder and less inhibited spirits than me follow today. Jones and Idle, Gilliam and Palin. Heaven knows what the next hour will bring in Graham’s name. Trousers dropping, blasphemers on pogo sticks, spectacular displays of high-speed farting, synchronised incest. One of the four is planning to stuff a dead ocelot and a 1922 Remington typewriter up his own arse to the sound of the second movement of Elgar’s cello concerto. And that’s in the first half.

Because you see, Gray would have wanted it this way. Really. Anything for him but mindless good taste. And that’s what I’ll always remember about him—apart, of course, from his Olympian extravagance. He was the prince of bad taste. He loved to shock. In fact, Gray, more than anyone I knew, embodied and symbolised all that was most offensive and juvenile in Monty Python. And his delight in shocking people led him on to greater and greater feats. I like to think of him as the pioneering beacon that beat the path along which fainter spirits could follow.

Some memories. I remember writing the undertaker speech with him, and him suggesting the punch line, ‘All right, we’ll eat her, but if you feel bad about it afterwards, we’ll dig a grave and you can throw up into it.’ I remember discovering in 1969, when we wrote every day at the flat where Connie Booth and I lived, that he’d recently discovered the game of printing four-letter words on neat little squares of paper, and then quietly placing them at strategic points around our flat, forcing Connie and me into frantic last minute paper chases whenever we were expecting important guests.

I remember him at BBC parties crawling around on all fours, rubbing himself affectionately against the legs of gray-suited executives, and delicately nibbling the more appetizing female calves. Mrs. Eric Morecambe remembers that too.

I remember his being invited to speak at the Oxford union, and entering the chamber dressed as a carrot—a full length orange tapering costume with a large, bright green sprig as a hat—-and then, when his turn came to speak, refusing to do so. He just stood there, literally speechless, for twenty minutes, smiling beatifically. The only time in world history that a totally silent man has succeeded in inciting a riot.

I remember Graham receiving a Sun newspaper TV award from Reggie Maudling. Who else! And taking the trophy falling to the ground and crawling all the way back to his table, screaming loudly, as loudly as he could. And if you remember Gray, that was very loud indeed.

It is magnificent, isn’t it? You see, the thing about shock… is not that it upsets some people, I think; I think that it gives others a momentary joy of liberation, as we realised in that instant that the social rules that constrict our lives so terribly are not actually very important.

Well, Gray can’t do that for us anymore. He’s gone. He is an ex-Chapman. All we have of him now is our memories. But it will be some time before they fade.

21 Ways To Celebrate Life

malfaceThis was written by Mallika Chopra’s (daughter of Deepak Chopra) friend, Nancy Rothstein.  It was sent to her to commemorate the 21st birthday of her son, Josh, who was tragically killed when he was 15.

She wrote to Mallika:

After Josh was killed, I was seeking a way to offer a tribute for family and friends to honor his birthday. Out of such profound loss and sadness, I wanted to create something that would give people inspiration and help them find joy in the gift of life….while it is still theirs.

Josh answered by “communicating” to me…. just before his 17th birthday…”Ways to Celebrate Life.” Each birthday since, Josh has given me a “way” to add to his list. I hope that Josh inspires you to embrace and to celebrate life….and I know he would want you to have fun along the way.

1. Smile. Smiling makes you and those around you feel good. If you don’t feel good, a smile can trick your brain into feeling better.
2. Eat ice cream.
3. Run on the beach. If you can’t physically do this, use your imagination.
4. Call someone who is ill or lonely. Listen to their story. Take the time. Tell them your story, if they ask.
5. Listen to music that touches your heart and soul.
6. Sing in the shower, or out loud if you are comfortable.
7. Visit the grave of a loved one and celebrate your continued BREATH. And tell your loved one what’s on your mind.
8. Play with a dog.
9. Thank yourself for putting up with all the things about yourself that drive you nuts! Activate your sense of humor!
10. Apologize to someone you have wronged in any way.
11. Take a day, or even a few hours, “off” to do something you always want to do but never take the time to do.
12. Eat something you never indulge in (unless allergic!) and savor every bite….slowly. No guilt permitted!
13. Re-watch your favorite funny or happy movie in your most comfortable clothes.
14. Make plans with 2 friends that you are crazy about but never see…near or far away.
15. Go outdoors to a natural setting. Sit. Close your eyes. Listen to the world. It’s all an extension of you! Your breath connects you intrinsically to the world.
16. Laugh. Do something fun or silly that evokes laughter. It has been said that laughter is God’s sunshine.
17. Place this list in an envelope and revisit it periodically to see how you are celebrating YOURSELF! If you are good to yourself, you can be much better to those around you.
18. Go to your heart and make all your decisions from there; and all will be well.
19. Follow the path that matters.
20. Believe and feel the change you want to see and you will BE the change you envision.
21. ….Yet you must know that in the end, it is LOVE’s garden you must tend.

Read the full post and be completely inspired here.

Famous Eulogies – Mahatma Mohandas Ghandi

97p/24/huty/7238/13This very moving eulogy was delivered by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, in February 1948.

Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that. Nevertheless, we will not see him again as we have seen him for these many years. We will not run to him for advise and seek solace from hi, and that is a terrible blow, not to me only, but to millions and millions in this country, and it is a little difficult to soften the blow by any other advise that I or anyone else can give you.

The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later that light will still be seen in this country, and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented the living truth … the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.

All this has happened when there was so much more for him to do. We could never think that he was unnecessary or that he had done his task. But now, particularly, when we are faced with so many difficulties, his not being with us is a blow most terrible to bear.

A madman has put an end to his life, for I can only call him mad who did it, and yet there has been enough of poison spread in this country during the past years and months, and this poison has effect on people’s minds. We must face this poison, we must root out this poison, and we must face all the perils that encompass and face them not madly or badly but rather in the way that our beloved teacher taught us to face them.. The first thing to remember no wish that no one of us dare misbehave because we’re angry. We have to behave like strong and determined people, determined to face all the perils that surround us, determined to carry out the mandate that our great teacher and our great leader had given us, remembering always that if, as I believe, his sprit looks upon us and sees u, nothing would displease his soul so much as to see that we have indulged in any small behaviour or any violence.

So we must not do that. But that does not mean that we should be weak, but rather that we should in strength and in unity face all the troubles and difficulties and conflicts must be ended in the face of this great disaster. A great disaster is a symbol to us to remember all the big things of life and forget the small things, of which we have thought too much.

What are the best songs for different funerals or memorial services?

sheetmusicPlanning a funeral or memorial service can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Choosing the music will be just one of the many choices you need to make. While it might seem like an insignificant matter compared to some of the other decisions that need to be made, it should not be overlooked. Music is a way of focusing attention on the reality of the loss and can help begin the process of healing. However, selecting music that expresses your feelings about this monumental loss of that special person can sometimes be difficult.

The Best have compiled several lists in order to help you make this decision easier, or at least provide you with several options that you may not have considered. They have also provided quick links to places where you can purchase the song, CD, or sheet music. The funeral songs have been broken down into several categories, depending on the type of funeral and the mood expressed by the music. If none of these categories seems to fit, a complete least of possible funeral songs is also available for you to browse at your leisure.

Selecting the right song can be tricky because you need to try to balance your feelings with the feelings of others, while find a song that reflects the person who has passed away. Below are a few guidelines to consider when selecting the right music for the funeral or memorial service that you are planning. While once hymns and other traditional funeral music were usually played, today music is often more of a reflection of the tastes of the person who has died or the family of that person.

  1. Choose music that provides comfort and stimulates pleasant memories of the departed person. The song could reflect the person’s personality or be one that was a favorite of his or hers.
  2. Consult with family members and friends of the deceased to see if they have any special music requests.
  3. Don’t try to fill in every moment with music. A few moments of silence are also necessary to allow people to reflect on the occasion.
  4. Remember that different people handle grief in different ways. When selecting a piece that is less traditional, you may want to explain your choice in the program or during the service.
  5. Instrumental versions of secular music or hymns can be a nice way to incorporate special songs either before or during the service.
  6. Most funeral homes have special licenses that allow them to play copyrighted music published by ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. So, whether you decide to play the music or hire someone to sing or play it for you, you do not have to worry about copyright infringement.
  7. If you are having trouble because there are too many songs that you want to include, consider playing the instrumental versions of the songs at other moments. Besides being included with the service, music can be played during the visitation, when people are arriving or leaving the church or funeral home, and during special moments such as when doves or balloons are released.
  8. If all else fails, allow the funeral director, minister, or organist to choose the music. They have the experience and knowledge to make appropriate selections.

Best Generic Funeral SongsBest Songs for a Friend’s Funeral
Best Songs for a Spouse’s Funeral – Best Songs for a Parent’s Funeral
Best Songs for a Child’s Funeral – Best Songs for a Sibling’s Funeral
Best Religious Songs for a Funeral – Best Traditional Funeral Songs
Best Celebration Songs Suitable for a Funeral – Best Coming to Terms Songs for a Funeral
Best Classical Music for a Funeral – Best Jazz Music for a Funeral
Best Country Music for a Funeral – Best Country Music for a Funeral
Other Funeral Songs Not Included in Lists Above

Safire’s “Stranded on the Moon” Speech

Safire, WilliamWilliam Safire, the inimitable wordsmith and pundit, died yesterday at the age of seventy-nine. To younger generations, Safire is most well-known for the three decades’ worth of columns he wrote for the New York Times. But before he was a columnist, he was a speechwriter for the Nixon Administration. One of the most intriguing speeches he ever wrote was one that—providentially—never had to be delivered by the President.

In 1999, a thirty year old speech was released that Safire had written in the event that Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the first men to walk on the lunar surface, became stranded on the moon:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

If there is ever a collection of speeches for an alternative history, this will surely rank among the most concise and beautiful of eulogies for deaths that never had to be.

(with many thanks to First Things)

A very moving eulogy

Picture 4We are often asked here at Living Years about eulogy’s.  One of the most recently moving addresses, we believe, was delivered by United States President Barack Obama’s for the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

In a poignant and affectionate address at Kennedy’s funeral, Obama dubbed Kennedy, who died aged 77, a “Happy Warrior” who triumphed over “more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know”.

The veteran senator from Massachusetts, the last of a trio of brothers who defined a heady, tragic political age, was a “champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party and the lion of the US Senate,” Obama said.

The president was making his debut as the effective leader of national mourning – one of the ceremonial duties of the US president – since capturing the White House, after hefty assistance from his mentor Kennedy.

He spoke to mourners in a spectacular Catholic basilica in Boston, before Kennedy’s widow Vicki, members of the extended Kennedy dynasty and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Describing the man who charged him with keeping the Kennedy flame of charismatic liberal politics alive, Obama said his friend had rare resilience and carved purpose from the trials of his family and his own troubled personal life.

“This spirit of resilience and good humour would see Ted Kennedy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know,” Obama said, his words echoing through the cavernous and ornate Our Lady of Perpetual Help church.

“It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man … but that was not Ted Kennedy,” Obama said, as some mourners daubed their eyes and others sniffed with emotion during an address that won a standing ovation.  Obama painted “the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled, smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon”.

To read the transcript in full, please click here.  Click on the picture above to take you to the video of the address.  Thanks also to