"DO IT YOURSELF"
Instructions for writing and presenting a eulogy
Let's suppose that you want to do it yourself.
Here's the plan:
1. Love the family. Take their needs to heart.
2. Gather family and friends. This works best as a group activity. There's a uniting and a catharsis that takes place in the sharing. A kitchen table is a wonderful place for the gathering. If the family won't fit at the table – then a living room or den will work just fine.
3. Ask for stories. "What special memories of our loved one do you have?" Are there stories that are normally told at family gatherings or around the fire at deer camp?
I love the stories where the loved one gets to be the hero/heroine. But the other stories are just as important. Nobody is perfect. And it is not healthy to have folks denying the less than perfect parts of the story. I usually say something like this: "I want to hear ALL the stories. If you tell a story that I can't use in the service it is your responsibility to tell me – 'You can't use that story.'" If you don't have permission to use a story, DON'T USE IT.
4. Here are a few "starters" if the stories begin to slow down too quickly:
a. "What did s/he like to eat (or cook)?" Was there a favorite food or cuisine?
b. "Was there a special hat or type of clothing that s/he always wore?"
c. "Who was the disciplinarian in your family?"
d. "What was their favorite ______ (Bible verse, story, song, sport, team ...)?"
e. "How did s/he get that nickname?"
f. "Did s/he get any awards or special recognitions I should know about?"
g. -- Feel free to add your own questions.
5. Plan to leave within an hour. Don't stay more than an hour and a half. Get home and consider your material.
6. There isn't a best way to arrange the material. Sometimes I use a chronological approach. Other times a reverse chronology will work best. Sometimes the stories group themselves into two or three (or five – but don't push it, you only have 20 minutes) main sections. And sometimes there just doesn't seem to be a way to arrange the particulars.
7. A word about arranging the tales: I usually begin by going over the notes I've taken and crossing out the stories that won't be told. In searching through the material an order may present itself. If an order presents itself, great. If not, decide which parts would be best to start with or end with. Then, put the other stories in between.
8. A word about time: Aim for twenty minutes or less – that's as long as any family needs to be sitting still. You can't tell all the stories anyway. You didn't get them. Some of the best stories weren't told because they would have implicated the teller of the story.
9. Don't trust your memory. Funerals are filled with emotion. Write down what you plan to say and practice.
10. Get to the service location about 30 minutes before the service is set to start. Make sure you've talked with the funeral director and have agreed on an order for the service. Learn where you are supposed to be and when.
11. It is okay to cry when delivering a eulogy. I know you don't want to cry in public but it shows your love for the deceased. If you think you might "lose it" during the service don't accept the responsibility. Have someone else do it.
12. A fairly normal order for a funeral service looks like this:
c. Scripture Reading
f. Eulogy, sermon or both
i. Friends ushered by casket and family.
Any portion of this may be omitted or combined depending on the family, religious tradition or other considerations.
Oh, and if you are really doing this for yourself:
Make your own presentation, video it and make sure that the funeral director has a copy (along with any other instructions you wish to leave).