The term eulogy sounds stiff and formal, but eulogies can include simple reminiscences, war stories, or favorite jokes. Here’s how to put it together.
1. Gather your material
First, collect the biographical facts: age, marriage dates, places lived, children, and so on. Now think about the stories you remember, or the turn of phrase or typical behavior that captures your loved one’s character so well. Talk with other survivors, so the picture you present will include their ideas as well.
2. Come up with a theme
A theme gives unity to the eulogy, helping your listeners to see the rich patterns of this life. For example, let’s say you are giving the eulogy for your late mother. As your theme, you decide to talk about your mother’s ability to make a home wherever she hung her hat.
Using this theme, you describe her English childhood, her eager arrival in Montreal as a shy, young war bride, and then how she made a warm and welcoming home in every new army base to which your father’s career took them.
Another example: When speaking of a friend, you might mention the various roles your friend successfully played: Raymond the Businessman, Raymond the Family Man, and Raymond the Winning Soccer Coach.
3. Organize the material
Write your notes in point form on sheets of paper or on 3×5 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.
4. Draft your speech
Write out the first draft. (If you have access to a computer, use it to make your editing job easier.) Use linking sentences to make each topic flow easily into the next. Pay most attention to your beginning and ending.
As you write and polish, keep the words “celebration” and “thanksgiving” in your mind. If it is appropriate, include a few moments of humor or lightheartedness.
5. Practice your delivery
If you are not used to speaking in public, borrow a book on this topic from the library and quickly skim it to pick up some tips. Read the speech into a tape recorder and then play it back. You’ll be able to polish some more. Now stand in front of a mirror and imagine you are talking to your audience.
Above all, remember to breathe. If you are afraid you might break down while reading the eulogy, ask someone ahead of time to be ready to take over at a signal from you. Just knowing you have a backup speaker will probably Tbe all you need to stay calm.