How to Write a Eulogy

LOVE this photo of Iris Apfel portrait by Bruce Weber. A woman who revels in her quirkiness.

My very first Celebration of Life / Memorial Ceremony was for another decidedly quirky person.  Seriously odd. But guess what his family and friends admired most about him (even when he drove them nuts)? You got it… his Quirks.  This man marched happily along to the beat of a drum no one else could hear.  A challenging eulogy to have as my first. I agonized over every word I wrote before sending it to the family for approval.  (They loved it!)  I remember nervously gulping down 3 glasses of water before the ceremony, unsure if guests would find it sort of irreverent.  As it got underway, that feeling completely evaporated.  People cried but they also laughed through their tears. There were solemn respectful moments, but woven between them were the memories that resonated because they were so warmly human.

Quaking in my shoes aside, I’m so glad this was the first eulogy I wrote. Right from the beginning I learned to tell the REAL story of a life. The quirky bits are often what we remember most about a person. These are the gems that a good Funeral Celebrant will mine to write a stand out eulogy or ceremony for your loved one. Most of us have many admirable traits… honour, integrity, compassionate, take a bullet for our families, funny, intelligent… and many of us love to ski, walk, hike, read, travel. It might sound like a good idea to frame the person who has died as some kind of enlightened being, a person with few faults. But include ONLY these and the eulogy won’t feel real.

If you are writing a eulogy, consider things like this:

Was she a fun-loving woman who nonetheless never told a joke without forgetting the punchline. Was grandpa known for phrases never heard uttered by another human being, such as “You’re bouncing around like a fart in a mitten.”  Yep, that’s from a real client. Despise bananas? Passionate about her pet hedgehog. Have a famously low tolerance for bad manners? Swore like a sailor, but only when cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Owned a pickle tray. Skinny all his life but warm as a beluga when it came to swimming in cold ocean water. Didn’t suffer fools gladly?

Quirks I hope someone puts in my eulogy one day are:  My expressions, “Life is too short to be Beige” and “Free the Feet”.  My penchant for wearing flip-flops (yes I know they’re bad for your feet and unsafe for cycle commuting.) The way I stop to pick up worms in the middle of the sidewalk so they don’t get crushed underfoot. The way I love fresh air like a dog hanging out the car window. Sometimes critical.  Maniacal laugh.

I’ll be writing more about How to Write Eulogies soon. Stay tuned.

— Celebrant Michele Davidson


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