Has anyone ever written & given a Eulogy? Help please

(33 Posts)
secretsquirrel1 Fri 30-Apr-10 12:29:57

My beloved sister-in-law has died after a long battle with breast cancer.

One of her last wishes to my brother was that I would 'do a reading' at her funeral.

I thought that it would be a religious one but it isn't; I have to compose a Eulogy. And I don't really know where to start.

I knew her very well - they had been married for nearly 30 years. So I have an awful lot of information but would like some advice please on how to compose one without waffling on!

Many Thanks.....

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maltesers Fri 30-Apr-10 12:46:47

Ah , so sorry to hear your news. HUGS x
I will have to look up Eulogy ...but have you heard of the poem by Anonymous,
"Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blows , I am the new glint on fallen snow. . . . " etc..
Not sure i got it all right, but Libera also sing it and its so lovely. Also Rest In Peace by Libera is wonderfull.. ("New Dawn " CD. )
What ever you choose to read..wishing you the best of luck and strength at your SILs funeral....a tough one, especially for your brother . I hope it goes well. XX

shelleylou Fri 30-Apr-10 12:52:22

I wrote and gave a eulogy at my younger brothers funeral in october. I found that i couldn't try and think of what to write to do it i came up with a blank. I just sat down and put all my thoughts, memories and feelings for him and they just poured out and the pen flowed. I told everyone what he was like as a brother and what he ment to me, how he was with my ds and how all of my family would miss him so much etc. I also found a poem and read that as it was my db through and through. It was a page and a half with the poem. Sorry for your loss

veyso Fri 30-Apr-10 12:56:43

So sorry to hear your news.
I wrote (though did not deliver) a eulogy for my uncle who died just before my son was born 10 months ago. My head was a bit all over the place at the time and my husband really helped me out by a) doing lots of internet research abut eulogies and b) helping me write it and, importantly, hear how it sounded read aloud.
I think what makes these things personal is to include some anecdotes about what made the person special - I am sure you have loads of these. Include funny little things - things that you and others will remember about her. The (beautiful) eulogy my Dad wrote for my beloved Mum's funeral was amazing - he talked about all the things that made her wonderful - her kindness, her patience, but also her short-temper and the time she put garamasalta in the baked apples instead of brown sugar by mistake.
I'm not sure if this helps. Best of luck.

secretsquirrel1 Fri 30-Apr-10 12:57:51

Thanks for that, Maltesers.

Yes, I have heard of that Anonymous poem before - can't remember where, but just those couple of lines nearly set me off sad.

I think I may end it with that - I looked up Eulogy on MN but there wasn't anything there. Guess I should Google or ask Jeeves for inspiration as well.....I have until the 10th of May so I'm sure I'll manage something by then.

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cyteen Fri 30-Apr-10 13:00:14

Very sorry for your loss, squirrel.

I also gave a eulogy at my brother's funeral, although I had a headstart on composing it as I had known for some time that I wanted to speak for him when he went (he died of cancer too, vile disease). When we were arranging his funeral I discussed it with the humanist officiant and she was very nice, advised me to speak from the heart and say whatever I wanted people to know about him.

I also got a lot of good advice from people about the actual reading on the day, including:

- practice it through several times to yourself and/or a trusted person - this will help you get an idea of any points that might provoke tears, anywhere you need to breathe, as well as how it flows etc.

- read slower than you think you need to and take slow, regular breaths throughout.

- don't be afraid to stop and take a breath, compose yourself etc. if need be - people will expect you to be emotional (although equally, don't worry if you don't need to iyswim).

- make sure that the officiant (or another trusted person) has a copy of your eulogy so that they can take over if you feel you can't do it on the day.

Sorry if any of this is teaching you to suck eggs blush FWIW I remain incredibly proud of the fact that I spoke for my brother, and it really helped me, then and now, during the awful process of grief.

Be kind to yourself.

castille Fri 30-Apr-10 13:12:42

So sorry for your loss.

My sister, brother and I all gave our own eulogies for our father's funeral in January. He himself had written a wonderful eulogy for his own father, telling his life story and including lots of interesting things I hadn't known about my grandfather, and I tried to base what I wrote on that, though it was a lot less eloquent than my Dad.

If you are the only person doing a eulogy then you need to tell her life story with the basic facts and anecdotes from different parts of her life. It's amazing how interesting this all is to people who hadn't known her as long as you. If someone else is doing that in their own eulogy then you can say whatever you like - your personal memories of her, a funny anecdote maybe, describe what you know best of her.

Good luck and all the best.

secretsquirrel1 Fri 30-Apr-10 13:15:39

Veyso, Cyteen & Shellylou - thank you all so much....

It's weird that I'm used to public speaking but that this will be so much more emotive, and I don't know how I shall be on the day. We all feel calm now as we had time to get our heads around the fact that she wasn't going to be around for much longer.

I have also taken the decision to bring DD (6) along as well so she can also say her goodbyes, as we were all very close.

Poor thing has lost 4 people in 2 years now -one of the pitfalls of being an older mum!

I don't have any issues about death & dying and DD (I know I'm lucky) - but this will be her first actual service (has been to a wake & helped scatter my dads ashes)

The tips are very gratefully received - especially the one about having a copy for someone else to read out....so obvious when you think about it.

Thank heavens for MN smile

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secretsquirrel1 Fri 30-Apr-10 13:17:45

Castille, another friend of hers has also been asked to do one too. As far as I know, there will just be the two of us. Thank you.

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castille Fri 30-Apr-10 13:18:34

My DDs wrote a poem for their Grandpa which they intended to read together, but in the event DD1 read it alone because DD2 couldn't do itsad)

Our vicar told us that if emotion gets too much, stop, take a breath, and carry on when you are ready. No one expects 100% composure. But I agree with cyteen that whoever is leading the funeral should have a copy of all the eulogies just in case.

BigBadMummy Fri 30-Apr-10 13:20:45

Sorry to hear of your loss. I have, sadly, done a couple.

One was my best friend's son who died a day after birth and the other was last September at my BIL's after he took his own life.

I didn't write the second eulogy so much as spoke for all the member's of the family who were unable to.

I said who he was, the crazy uncle to my DCs / the adored son for my ILs / my DH's brother who would send sweary texts when their football team got beaten / the partner who shouted at the Today programme on Radio 4.

Talk about who your friend was. Why she was amazing.

Start with how you met / what she means to you / and will continue to do. Include a funny story if you have one. How you will miss her.

The vicar had asked for a copy the night before just so that he could read it out if I couldn't.

It was hard, very hard. In fact one of the hardest things I have done but I wanted to do it for the family and I wobbled but stayed very focussed and got through it.

Remember to breathe deeply. Don't rush it.

Double space the lines and take it slowly so people can hear you at the back.

And look up. Dont bury your head in your chest / papers or they wont be able to hear you.

Good luck

BigBadMummy Fri 30-Apr-10 13:21:56

forgot to mention,. I used some of Auden's Stop All the Clocks for my friend's son's eulogy.

Not exact wording because it wasnt appropriate for a baby but I used that because I love it.

MIght be worth a look.

secretsquirrel1 Fri 30-Apr-10 13:24:46

BBM - I was just thinking the same, the bit about double spacing especially! I think I should laminate it as well...ha ha. My sis-in-law would have found it very funny if I blubbed all over my lines.....

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secretsquirrel1 Fri 30-Apr-10 13:28:37

And I'm also sorry to hear of all your losses too, everyone. I don't mean to sound completely wrapped up/self absorbed in this, but it's difficult when it's advice you are asking for, iyswim?

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BigBadMummy Fri 30-Apr-10 13:30:01

of course we know what you mean. It is a very difficult time.

You could open with

"just so you know SIL I have had to laminate this because you are going to make me cry".

secretsquirrel1 Fri 30-Apr-10 13:31:03

Nice one, BBM!

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cyteen Fri 30-Apr-10 13:31:35

Oh yes, I forgot that one - print double spaced and in a larger type than you might normally use - makes it easier to see if your eyes are blurry with tears.

No need to apologise to us, I know I'm glad to help although obviously wish I didn't have to (or know how to...)

FluffyDonkey Fri 30-Apr-10 13:34:30

So sorry for your loss.

"My sis-in-law would have found it very funny if I blubbed all over my lines..... "

Say that. Say something real about her. I haven't had to say an eulogy before but I have lost a couple of close friends and I always wrote a (very difficult) letter to their parents to let them know who this friend was for me. What we did together. All the million of tiny ways I was going to miss them.

Thinking of you on May 10th sad

realfreedom Fri 30-Apr-10 13:57:20

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I have written and delivered several eulogies, most recently for my grandfather.

You really do need to go slowly when speaking, and type your final version out in a large, clear font. A little tip for me was to have "marker" points in case I got lost. For me, it helps to look out into the room, as you do when speaking to a large audience, but not make direct eye contact with anyone, as that is where I have difficulty with not falling apart.

Brainstorming will help you write it - I often start by brainstorming a list of words that describe the person best. Then when you read them to yourself, you'll likely think of special anecdotes and memories that show why they had that characteristic.

It may sound silly, but I've found it helpful to play music the person liked while I'm doing this. You're trying to encapsulate their life - what they did, what was important to them, what they did that mattered and will live on even after they are gone. How they impacted you personally, or added to your family life is a good place to work from.

Going through any photos you have helps if the memory thing is sort of "blocked" with emotion right now.

Also, expect other people to cry when you are talking. This sounds simple but it can really throw you the first time if you aren't ready for it.

Hope this helps a bit. FWIW, I understand what you are saying in that I also have an extensive public speaking background and it does not help at all because of the emotion involved.

Jux Fri 30-Apr-10 14:10:20

I'm so sorry for your loss.

When my brother died last year, neither my remaining brother nor I were able to come up with a thing to say. My mind was totally blank; it felt as if I knew what he looked like and that was about it. Luckily, loads and loads of his friends wanted to speak so I didn't have to. Otherwise, I would have found a poem, pr quote from a book, or song or something like that, which had some sort of expression of how I remembered him and felt about him.

happynappies Fri 30-Apr-10 14:23:57

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.

When my Grandad died in September last year myself, my sister and my Dad all decided we wanted to speak at the funeral. I talked about what I remembered of him as a person - what he was like, what he liked, and what he meant to me. It was easy to write in some ways as I had so many lovely memories to draw on. The difficult thing was speaking, as even though I'm used to public speaking the emotion of the occasion was very difficult to deal with. I decided that it didn't really matter if I stumbled over the words or struggled etc - I just took my time and got there eventually... I hope you find the words and that you have lots of help and support - am sure your sister-in-law wanted you to speak for good reason, and you'll feel stronger knowing you're doing it for her, if that makes sense.

secretsquirrel1 Sat 01-May-10 17:07:06

RealF, Jux & HappyN, thank you so much for your suggestions....

I have been thinking of nothing else today - which is kind of good because it has started to focus my random thoughts. My DD is away at her dads of the w/end so I have tomorrow & Monday to get it down on paper.

I'm taking myself off to a classical concert this eve. That will be nice and relaxing (though I bet the engineering works on the railway puts paid to that notion!).

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Jux Sat 01-May-10 17:28:28

Oh I do hope you enjoy it. What are they playing?

You've reminded me of dd's friend's funeral early last year. The vicar quoted some of the Song of Solomon, and explained that she thought of God calling dd's friend - "Rise my love, my dear one, and come away". Purcell's setting has long been one of my favourite pieces anyway, but I was reminded of it by that funeral, and played it as a recessional at my mum's. It is so tranquil, but also utterly heartbreaking in that context.

(My brother had the Stones' Gimme Shelter, Little Feat's Long Distance Love and PF's Shine on Crazy Diamond, but they're probably not appropriate for your grandad, are they?)

secretsquirrel1 Sat 01-May-10 17:39:30

Vivaldi & Mozart. Better go get ready.....

BTW, my sis-in-law wanted to see Swan Lake - the earliest matinee tickets I could get were for June 12th. I shall take DD now, but that does make me sad. I didn't know that she so wanted to see it until it really was too late. But there was always that thought that she'd be able to manage to hang on til then. And it was something for her to look forward to as well, so even though it didn't happen, she was still looking forward to it.

That saying 'never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today' has never felt sooooo true (need to get some perspectives here before I lose the plot emoticon!)

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CarmenSanDiego Sat 01-May-10 17:50:14

I read at my mum's funeral. I found concentrating on small, specific things was easier than trying to sum up her whole life or give a biography.

Also, it's worth vocalising your feelings honestly, whatever they may be - the chances are others share them. It helped me to deal with some angry, frustrated feelings I (and maybe others) had by acknowledging them in my reading.

Although I really favour anecdotes, I guess you need to make sure with the other reader that you cover her important life events though. I went to the funeral of someone I had only known through an antenatal group (horribly sad) and learned so much about her... about how she'd travelled and volunteered internationally.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

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