Recently we talked about how to have a meaningful Jewish funeral, offering tips from both the Beth El Mausoleum Director, Mike Sirowitz and Temple Beth El of Boca Raton’s Senior Rabbi Dan Levin. To continue with that topic, we are going to delve into one of the most important components of the funeral service... writing a eulogy or a remembrance speech.
In many situations a passing occurs unexpectedly, and the loved ones who wish to speak at the funeral service are experiencing a multitude of emotions. For those who find writing an easy task, preparing a eulogy won’t be that challenging. However, not everyone is comfortable writing such an important speech, and even if they normally would be….the fact that they are grieving adds to the difficulty.
Certainly, expressing your feelings on paper can be very cathartic. If you are the one preparing a written eulogy, these suggestions from the Beth El Mausoleum in Boca Raton, Florida may make this daunting task a bit easier. An important thing to remember is that the most memorable eulogies are written from the heart, and the sincerity of the content is more important than the length. Keep in mind that if others are also speaking, you will want to make sure to be in touch with them to make sure you don’t all tell the same stories. Also, depending upon how many people will be speaking, it is better to err on the side of a shorter eulogy speech. If you are the only person speaking, then of course, you will want to speak a bit longer. If you are the sole speaker, approximately five to fifteen minutes, maximum would be appropriate. However, if others are speaking, it is best if you consolidate your remarks to about five minutes, so as not to make the service too long.
In case you suffer from writer’s block, we hope these tips for writing a meaningful eulogy will help you get started.
A QUIET PLACE: Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted to write the eulogy and gather your thoughts.
THE PURPOSE OF THE EULOGY: The goal is for you is to honor the deceased, by reading the eulogy, not to gain the approval of the audience at the funeral or memorial service.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE DECEASED: What is your relationship to the deceased? If you are a close relative, you may want to dig back in your memory to some special times you want to summarize. If you are a friend, you may want to discuss how you met and how much the relationship meant to you.
CONTACT OTHERS FOR HELP: Call others who were close to the deceased for any pertinent information you may need to include, that you may not be as familiar with. This could include excerpts of their life prior to your birth or meeting them.
ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS: Organize your thoughts by creating an outline of the topics you want to cover. It will make it that much easier for you to write the eulogy, by simply filling in the blanks. You will be painting a picture of the deceased with the anecdotes you share about them.
FOCUS ON THE DECEASED: It is easy to get caught up in your own feelings as you express your thoughts in a eulogy. However NEVER make the eulogy about YOU. The focus of the commentary should always be about the deceased. It is fine to say how much they personally meant to you and how sad you are to lose them – but stories about yourself should not be included; as this is the time to highlight the life of the one that has been lost.
HUMOR: Humorous but not embarrassing stories are acceptable. Remember that now is not the time for grievances or to put the deceased in a humiliating light.
FOND MEMORIES: Touching memories of yours or anyone who would like you to share a memory on their behalf are always good components.
KEEP IT CONVERSATIONAL: Remember that this is not a full-length biography, nor an obituary with specific facts that would be published in a newspaper notice. This is a tribute to the deceased’s life written from your point of view to honor them. Make it conversational, so that when you read the eulogy to the audience it will sound sincere and not forced.
HANDWRITTEN OR TYPED: Writing the eulogy by hand may be your first thought, but it will make it easier if you eventually get the eulogy typed on a computer in a large size font and make the lines double space. That way when you read it in front of the mourners at the funeral service, it will be clearer to see and read out loud. If you don’t have a computer, ask someone you know who has one to help you out. Number the pages and staple them to avoid having them mixed up.
THOUGHT STARTERS: Some basic suggestions to get your thoughts going for the eulogy speech, are that you may wish to include some of the deceased hobbies, special interests, education, career or places they may have lived.
ROUGH DRAFT: The first draft you put together is generally a good start, but it makes sense for you to read it aloud or even ask a family member or friend to listen to it for their feedback. You might want to try reading it in front of a mirror, to practice looking out at an audience rather than looking down at the paper you are holding on the podium. Practice will make you more comfortable and relaxed…but it is always possible that emotions will get the best of you when you read it live….everyone will understand…take a deep breath and a moment to compose yourself, and you will be able to continue. If time allows, write the eulogy and then read it the next day to see if you wish to add or delete anything.
TIMING: Often you won’t have very much time to write a eulogy, as Jewish funeral services generally occur within 24-48 hours of the death. You may have many other tasks to take care of, but because this is the last chance you will have to make a public statement to a larger group about your beloved family member or friend, do your best to take the time or ask for the help of others.
READING THE EULOGY: Should you not be comfortable with public speaking, you can certainly still write the eulogy and have another family member, friend or the officiant of the funeral service deliver it on your behalf. Here at the Beth El Mausoleum in Boca Raton, Florida, we will do all we can to assist you with the coordination of the service and reading of the eulogy.
Writing a eulogy doesn’t have to be intimidating and you do not have to be a professional writer to share your heartfelt emotions. We hope that these tips for writing a memorable eulogy will help you create a meaningful tribute to your loved one that will be remembered always.