Over my lifetime, I have had the privilege of delivering scores of eulogies for clients, family and friends. It is indeed a sad and solemn occasion to be called upon to do such a task.
The most difficult eulogy I have ever delivered was for an agent who worked for me who took his own life. He was a very successful and a millionaire. Till this day, no one knows why.
Literally walking into the church to attend his funeral, his widow turned to me and asked me to do his eulogy. Thank God for Toastmasters and for the many previous eulogies that equipped me with the words to say goodbye to a friend and colleague, despite the extraordinary circumstances of his death.
A survey in a London newspaper years ago revealed that speaking on your feet was the number one fear in the world today. Death was number four. Go figure… people would rather die than give a speech. Sometimes when I speak and bomb, it feels like I died!
Where do you start when you are called upon to eulogize someone? Remember the 6-P’s… proper preparation prevents pitifully poor performance. bBe prepared. Practice, practice and practice and when you are done practicing, practice it again!
Begin now long before you think you might get called upon to say a public goodbye to a loved one. The best formula starts with making notes in a journal of potential things that others may have said that inspires you. Here are just a few:
Lincoln: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”
Dr. Suess: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Cicero: “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”
George Carlin: “I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again.”
Socrates: “Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.”
Anonymous: “There are some who bring a light to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains.”
Queen Elizabeth II: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Irving Berlin: “The song is ended but the melody lingers on.”
Shakespeare: “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but once.”
Anonymous: “A light from our household is gone, a voice we loved is stilled. A place is vacant in our hearts, which never can be filled.”
Ernest Hemingway: “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”
John Doone: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man›s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Aeschylus: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart… until, in our own despair, against our own will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” Some relevant humor
Some relevant humor at a funeral is desired but not required, but never in relation to how the deceased died. Three to five minutes is a good length for a eulogy. Anything longer than ten minutes you risk losing the audience.
Michael Aun earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation in 1983. At the time, there were fewer than 200 speakers in the world to attain the honor.