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A Eulogy is the Most Difficult Speech to Give

May 9th, 2008 · 4 Comments

My brother died a few weeks ago in a car accident. He was too young with a lot of life yet to live. He had just bought a new deer hunting rifle just two days before, he was looking forward to new changes at his work, and he was planning on buying a house outside of town.

We held the funeral on the Saturday after the accident. There were a lot of people who turned out – we estimate about 350 – and the largest group I have ever seen who followed us to the burial. It was a moving experience, very mournful with so many people, and one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

I offered to give the eulogy for my brother. I felt I should since I wanted a family member to give it and not the clergy. I also consider oratory a skill set, so it was a tribute to my brother as well. In all honesty, I did not offer right away; I mulled over the thought for a couple of days, because it is truly a difficult speech to give.

In oratory, the orator is the center of attention. It takes a great deal of confidence to give a good speech. You could argue that a lot of natural ability steams from a strong ego. With a eulogy, the orator is not the center of attention, but rather a narrator or commentator about the life of someone else. When I spoke at the funeral, I stood off to the side of my brother’s casket for this very reason; I did not want to be in the center of the room – that was my brother’s place – and I certainly did not want to stand overlooking him from the stage behind the casket.

I researched how to give a eulogy as I research almost everything. I compiled some suggestions, because there are no set rules. Here is a short list of tips for giving a eulogy:

1. Keep it short

People are there to mourn the loss of a family member or a friend, not to listen to a long speech. Some suggest 3-5 minutes or 5-7 minutes.

2. Keep it in perspective

When an older person dies who has lived a good long life, a funeral is more of a memorial to that life; the eulogy can be a little lighter. When a young person dies, it is a tragedy; any humor must be restrained. There can be some light laughter, but it must fit the mood of the situation and not cause people to be uncomfortable. FYI, it is encouraged to laugh; laughter is part of the mourning process.

3. Keep it true

Give a eulogy that fits the person. If the person was a joker, share some of the best jokes. If the person was very accomplished, highlight those accomplishments. Don’t try to paint a perfect saint of someone who was well known not to be. It is tempting to put the absolute best image on someone’s life, but make certain that it is still an image about the person.

4. Share personal stories

It is good to give some stories about the person. Funerals are mostly about the memories. The person who gives the eulogy should be someone who knew the deceased, so the eulogy can be a personal tribute.

5. Keep it about the person

Remember that the eulogy is about someone else, not you. Nor is the eulogy a political speech; it is not the platform for a social argument, but if the person held strong, well known political beliefs, you can highlight those beliefs if it is in perspective to the life the person lived – i.e. the eulogy for a President or Senator.

If I ever have to give a eulogy again, I will without hesitation; I believe it is a great honor and a tribute to the person who died. However, I pray that it is a long time before I give another eulogy.

It’s an understatement to say life is not fair. Sometimes life is darn right tough. But to know how to appreciate the joy in life, we have to experience the sorrows. Shakespeare once wrote, “Tears water our growth.” The Psalmist wrote, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

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Tags: Eulogy · Oratory · Psamlist · Shakespeare · Speech

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ron // May 12, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Jonathon,

    I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your brother. My sympathies to you and your loved ones.

    Ron

  • 2 Jonathan Frye // May 13, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Thank you, Ron.

  • 3 derya jaramillo // Aug 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Hi,

    My 21 year old daughter lost a boyfriend to drinking and driving. This young man was only 23. He has made many wrong choices in life and drug and alcohol was two of the biggest. I contacted his mother about his drug problem last year, and advised her to take steps to realize and deal with it to save his life. She did finally put him in rehab. Moved to OR to get away from his druggy friends. However, she is a heavy drinker and that did not help the poor guy at all. He cont. to drink and finally at a party last Friday to Saturday, he lost his life while driving home with one of his best friends from WA. The other young man was only 24. Solomon, who was my daughters boyfriend, was had plans to move in toghether with my daughter this coming November. They made plans and found a place to live. HE was a good young man otherwise, always polite and respectful but did such things such as trying to steal from my daughter while under the influence of drugs. Well, all my daughters dreams came down crashing this past weekend when she got a call that he died in a car accident while intoxicated. My daughter is beside herself with grief and can’t understand why he had to die. I am at loss of words because I blame him and his mother for ruining not only their lifes, but also my daughters future she had planned with him. He would have been a great BF or a husband if he had been under the right influencial people in his life. It’s so sad and I don’t know how to help my daughter cope with this. I’m going to his memorial where religiouse speeches are not welcome )-: I would like to give a speach, but one to awakien the 100 plus young people his age/friends about drinking and driving. I just don’t know how to do this tactfully because I have anger inside of me, not only because he made the wrong choices in life, but also he took someone elses life as well as leaving alot of people who love and miss him now. Can yo plase help me to write a speach that is impactful to the young people to wake up and open their eyes to acohol/dui and so forth? His mother divorced his dad while the poor man had some kind of illness that was going to take his life. He’s been dead for a while now and poor Solomon could not handle the grief of his fathers death. But this has been a long time ago. The mother still drinks and was not a very good influence on the young man. I am very upset with her. I just don’t know what to say and need help putting together a speach that is impactful but also celebrates the good things in his life.

  • 4 How to Deliver a Eulogy « Speak for Yourself // Aug 24, 2012 at 1:05 am

    [...] Here are some guidelines which are good ones to go with: [...]

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