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EULOGY - A speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something

highly, especially a tribute to someone who has just died.

Writing and giving a eulogy is a way of saying farewell to someone who has
died that, in a sense, brings the person to life in the minds of the audience. You
don’t have to be a great writer or orator to deliver a heartfelt and meaningful
eulogy that captures the essence of the deceased.
Difference Between Eulogy, Elegy and Obituary
A eulogy and an elegy are similar because both are written for the dead. An
elegy is a song or a poem with a lamenting tone that expresses loss of a family
member or a loved one. A eulogy, by contrast, is a speech or written tribute to
the deceased, or perhaps to a living person, and it is not necessarily in the
form of a poem. However, an obituary is a completely different term than
eulogy and elegy, as it is a published biography intended to recount the life of
someone who recently died.


Preparing and delivering a eulogy can make those unaccustomed to writing and
public speaking very anxious. Understandably, the eulogist wants to get things
right. The most important thing to remember as you go through this process is
to focus on the deceased, rather than your own nerves and concerns. If you
can do that you will be able to write a heartfelt tribute that expresses your
feelings about the life you are there to remember and honor. Here is a step-by-
step guide to help you create and deliver a meaningful eulogy.

1. Share stories and memories

One of the most wonderful and satisfying things we can do when we lose
someone we love is to learn something new about that person from
others. So whether you are preparing an obituary for someone you know
intimately, or for a colleague, it’s a good idea to start out by gathering
ideas and stories first. Set aside a couple of hours to share stories and
talk about the deceased with family and friends. Write down stories and
memorable sayings as you go along. Learning these stories will help
bring to mind your memories of the deceased, and go a long way towards
preparing your eulogy.

2. Brainstorming and editing

Brainstorming will be similar to your conversation with the family, only
this time it’s just you. Write down any ideas that come to you about the
deceased, whatever they happen to be. In this stage you don’t want to
edit anything out. A small idea may lead to a great one, so just open up
and allow any ideas to come out onto your paper. You’re looking for
stories, perspectives, memories, music and food associated with that
person; mental images about the life of the deceased. After you’ve
brainstormed for an hour or so, step back and look at what you’ve got,
along with the notes you took when talking with family and friends. Look
for descriptive items that can paint a picture in the mind of the audience.
Select the stories and images that stand out as being really
representative of the personality of the deceased.

3. Develop a theme
The theme of your eulogy is a way to tie together some of the best stories,
images, and impressions from your sessions into a somewhat unified
piece. Don’t feel as though you need to make sense of the death, provide
some profound insight, or ‘make things better’ by finding some silver
lining or rationalization for the death. No one expects this of you, and
trying to do this can make others feel like their grief is being minimized.
It’s OK to just admit that the death is a terrible thing that we just don’t
understand; that we are sad, hurt, even angry about the loss, but we’re
gathered together to support one another and to remember our love for
that person. Themes can be questions like:

 “Who was Bob Miller?” A son, a husband, a brother, a mechanic, a sports

 “What makes a father special?” Giving you advice and letting you make
mistakes on your own…
 “What would this town be without Martha Evans?” No meals on wheels,
no arts and crafts club, kids who never learned how to read…

These themes ask a question. The question is answered by all the stories and
memories you’ve collected. Other themes could be:

 “Courage in the face of adversity”

 “He will live on through…”,
 Metaphors, like “His life was like a garden”
 A loosely organized series of stories like ‘All I know about life I learned
from fishing with dad.”

The themes are there if you look. Perhaps it’s:

 “The kitchen was the center of our family”

 “The seasons of her life”
 “He showed his love through his actions, not his words”
 “She taught us all the importance of thrift”
 “She taught us all the importance of having a good time”

If you have trouble coming up with a theme, take a look at the “Quotes,”
“Readings,” “Scripture and Prayers” and other resources on this site for
inspiration. Adding a quote or a reading to a eulogy can help organize your
pieces and add another level and perspective to your piece, but don’t try to
force your pieces together to fit the quote or reading. The honesty of the stories
is more important that any theme, so if the important ideas don’t fit, choose a
more loosely organized theme like:

 “All the different sides of Uncle Charlie,” or

 “What I learned from Mom”

You may find that more than one theme works best to present the material you
have collected. That’s fine too. Your theme is important, but should be
subordinate to your content. Ultimately, the overarching theme of any eulogy is
simply “the life of this person was important to us.”

4. Weave your eulogy together

Now is the time to put all you’ve got in order. Write the draft out just as
you would say it. Use your normal conversational vocabulary and tone,
and avoid fancy or unfamiliar language. Don’t feel compelled to turn your
tribute into a poem. What is important is clearly expressing your
thoughts. Trying to do that and rhyme at the same time can work at

A funeral is not the time to ‘set the record straight’ on contentious or

unresolved issues. That would be a help and comfort to no one. It is
important to work through these issues, but not at the funeral. Your
eulogy needs to be a kind and respectful tribute, and it can be honest in
spirit without going into detail about shortcomings or attacking the
deceased. If you feel that you cannot give your eulogy without
announcing to the world that mother had a drinking problem, or that
Uncle Rex was unfaithful to Aunt Betty, let someone else deliver it. Start
out your eulogy with a statement of your theme; a quote or reading that
illustrates your theme, or a story that does the same. Whatever your
theme, think of it as an ‘argument’ that you ‘prove’ in the body of your
eulogy. If your theme is a question, you will answer that question with
various examples though your eulogy. Don’t be afraid of getting things
exactly right at this stage, just get it all down, then take a break and
come back to it with fresh eyes.
5. Add and edit
Does your eulogy make sense? Do your examples prove the point of your
theme? Have you included the most important milestones in the person’s
life? Have you included too many details? Would a quotation, a poem, or
a prayer add something meaningful? Now is the time to make structural
changes before you polish it all up. Think twice about anything that may
be in questionable taste for a mixed audience, or may be too sensitive to
discuss publicly. If you are in doubt about this, run it by someone you
trust. Another important idea to keep in mind is that while the eulogy
may mention many people including you, it needs to be focused on the
deceased. If your eulogy mentions you more than the deceased there is a

6. Practice
Once you are pleased with reading the eulogy over in your head, it’s time
to read it aloud. Practice reading clearly and slowly; giving your audience
enough time to hear and understand all your hard work. Practice and
practice again. The more familiar you are with your piece, the easier it
will be to catch yourself if you falter, to look up from your notes and
engage with your audience, and to put feeling and emphasis into your
speech. Time yourself to see if your piece is too long or too short. A good
guide is about 15 minutes. If you go longer than 20 minutes, you may
have overstepped your bounds. If your eulogy is shorter than 5 minutes,
you may not have said enough.

7. When you deliver your eulogy, be sure to speak slowly and clearly.
Make sure you have a copy of your eulogy written out in large enough
type that you can read it easily. Keep a glass of water, a cough drop, and
a handkerchief handy as well. If you falter, or are overcome with
emotion, allow yourself to cry (no apologies are necessary) and resume
reading when you can. Try to look at the audience at least occasionally,
and at the family as much as you can. Feel free to gesture with your
hands, but try not to fidget. If there is a microphone available, use it.
Delivering a eulogy is a great honor. Friends and family will be forgiving
of mistakes, and grateful to you for this gift. Throughout it all, remember
that this is about the deceased, not about you. Most eulogies are
prepared and delivered by people unaccustomed to writing and public
speaking. Great oratory and profound insights are not expected, and are
not even the point of a eulogy. What makes a great eulogy is a heartfelt
message of love for the deceased, and stories reminding us of why we all
share that love. If you deliver that message in a clear, straightforward
manner, you will have succeeded.
Essential elements of a eulogy are

 to let the audience know how you knew the deceased

 to share a personal story or two that sheds a positive light on the
character of the person
 to allow the family members and friends to recognize contributions of the
departed loved one to you or the community and how everyone will miss

It is perfectly OK to tell a humorous story during a eulogy as long as it is in

good taste. Poems on death or quotes on mortality may be something you want
to weave into your eulogy as well.

Tips for Writing and Delivering a Successful Eulogy

1. Keep Your Eulogy Brief

This is not the time to write the great American novel, so keep
telling yourself that "less is more." The truth is that the longer you
speak, the more likely you will ramble and make listeners feel
awkward, bored, or uncomfortable. Instead, you should create a
eulogy that you can deliver in around five minutes. If possible, ask
the funeral director, clergy member, celebrant, or other officiants
beforehand how much time you will have during the service, but
five minutes is a good rule of thumb.

To help keep your remembrance speech brief, you should focus

your eulogy on a specific quality or two about the deceased that
you admire, or share a story about the deceased that expresses a
significant personality trait or formative moment in his or her life.
Ideally, try to relate something that you witnessed firsthand or that
personally involved you, but if you're having trouble thinking of
something, then it's okay to ask a close loved one for some ideas.

By limiting the scope of your remarks in this way, you should find
it easier to write your eulogy. A eulogy outline can also help. In
addition, you will more likely give your listeners some meaningful
insight into the deceased that they will cherish, rather than fill
them with the desire to glance at their watches or stifle their
2. Keep Your Eulogy Personal
Listeners will not find your eulogy moving if you merely recite a list
of dry facts, such as those found in most obituaries. And avoid
simply rattling off a long list of character traits, such as "Uncle Ben
loved hunting, motorcycles, the Green Bay Packers, woodworking,
etc." This approach will prove about as interesting as listening to
someone read a grocery list out loud.

Instead, share a story that illustrates something your loved one

enjoyed—especially if you were also part of that story.2 For
example, imagine that you and Uncle Ben once took a road trip on
his motorcycle to see the Packers play football. Not only would this
convey a deeper sense of his love of motorcycles and the Green Bay
Packers, but you would also find it much easier to share other
insights that listeners will find meaningful. Again, if you can't
think of a firsthand story to share, then talk to a close family
member or friend and borrow one from them.3

3. Keep Your Eulogy Positive

Many movies and TV comedies have focused on the main character
struggling to write and deliver a eulogy about a person he or she
despised, such as an overbearing boss or unfaithful ex-spouse.
Assuming you're not tasked with eulogizing somebody like
Ebenezer Scrooge, you shouldn't have a problem finding enough
words to focus on the positive things.4

But if you struggle, remember that listeners will not be there to

judge you on the thoroughness of your remarks. If the deceased
was a difficult person or led a troubled life, then just trust that
those in the audience already know that and it's not your job to
break the news to them.

In some cases, you might feel it's impossible not to reference

something negative or unflattering about the deceased, even
though you're trying to focus on the positive. If you find yourself in
this situation, then you should resort to a euphemism to help get
you past the awkward point in your eulogy and to avoid adding
greater pain to those mourning.

4. Keep Your Eulogy Written

Even people who earn a living making speeches use a written copy
of their remarks. Often, these are projected on teleprompters for
easy and inconspicuous reference. Sometimes, a speaker will
simply have a printed copy on a podium or even just an outline on
index cards in a pocket.

If the professionals use a written copy of their speeches, then you

should too. While you definitely need to practice your eulogy
several times to make sure it's long enough and that you become
familiar with it, there is no reason to feel you must deliver your
remarks from memory.

Moreover, if you write your eulogy or remembrance speech on a

computer, print it out using a font size that you find easy to read,
and double-space the printout so it's easier to keep your place. In
addition to your printed eulogy, it's also a good idea to have a
handkerchief or tissues with you in case you grow a little
emotional, and a bottle of water should your throat feel dry.

It can be a nice touch to give a copy of your eulogy to the grieving

family. You may want to bring extra copies along or have it
available in an email to give to people who will request a copy.

5. Keep Your Eulogy Conversational

Public speaking traditionally ranks among the greatest fears that
people hold. Despite this, most people have no problem talking to
their family members, friends, co-workers, or even strangers if the
situation calls for it. The difference, of course, is that nobody is
watching you in those latter situations.

To help you deliver your eulogy effectively, and to make it more

interesting for listeners, speak in a conversational tone—as if you
were simply talking to a family member or friend. This should be
easier if you've followed the advice above and you're sharing a story
or other firsthand insights.

In addition, remember to look up at your listeners from time to

time and make eye contact. Doing so will help your delivery feel
more like a conversation, and you will be less likely to rush
through the eulogy and/or deliver it in a monotone voice.
If you don't feel you can look at your audience without growing
emotional, however, then keep your focus on your written remarks
and don't feel self-conscious if you need to pause for a moment to
compose yourself.


Steven and I met in Mr. Rollins' third grade class. I'd like to say we
became friends immediately but, actually, I thought Steven was quite the
teacher's pet so I ignored him.

Of course, that studiousness and his ability to make friends with the
'right' people is probably why Steven ended up as the owner of his own
successful company. I came to appreciate Steven's finer qualities and
what I came to know eventually is that it was all real. Steven did not have
an inauthentic bone in his body. Steven stood up for people. Something
happened in the seventh grade that I will never forget and is a perfect
example of the kind of person Steven was.

My brother, Eli, was two years younger than we were. There was a time
when walking to school past Water Street became quite a challenge for
many of us.

A gang of fellows gathered in front of a garage there and, when they were
so inclined, they would drag one of us into their group and torment us.
Most of us would escape eventually with a scraped knee or a missing

Eli and I walked together and usually when there was more than one, the
hooligans wouldn't bother us. But one day I was sick and Eli had to walk
by himself. He did not make it past the corner. Eli was grabbed and
dragged to the center of their circle. You can imagine what happened after
that. They pulled his backpack off him and pushed him down. Then
Steven came along.

Years later Eli told me that even though Steven was the smallest kid in
our class, he just walked right into the group and pulled him up off the
pavement. He grabbed Eli's backpack and handed it back to him. "Go on,"
he told him. Eli scurried out of the group and looked back in time to see
Steven taking his first punch.

I remember the next day Steven was pretty banged up with a black eye. I
asked him what happened and he just said, "Nothin'... you know, Water
Street." That's how Steven was, always strong, always humble.

As you know, Steven has been endlessly generous with our community
through his charitable endeavors and with all of us who have been
fortunate enough to call ourselves his friends. Steven, you are gone too
Rev Dr. Martin
Luther King Funeral
Eulogy by Robert ForF.those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred
Kennedy and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I
can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a
member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we
have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to
"For those of youunderstand,
who to go beyond these rather difficult times.
are black and are
tempted to be filled
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep pain which
with hatred ... against
cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own
all white people, despair,
I can against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of
only say that I feel in
my own heart theWhat we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the
same kind of feeling.
UnitedI States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not
had a member ofviolence
my or lawlessness, but love and wisdom and compassion toward
family killed.... one another, and a feeling of injustice towards those who still suffer
within our country, whether they be white or they be black...
Martin Luther King,
the American civilWe've had difficult times in the past. We will have difficult times in the
rights leader andfuture. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is
winner of the Nobel
not the end of disorder.
Prize for Peace, was
born in Montgomery,
Alabama. He rose to
prominence in the
civil rights movement
of the 1950s, led the
famous March on
Washington in 1963,
and the March from
Selma to
Alabama, in 1965. A
brilliant orator and
writer, whose
insistence upon
nonviolence in the
Gandhian tradition
accounted for the
success of the
movement, Dr. King