Very often, a ULC minister will have to give a eulogy at a funeral, but you don't have to be a minister to give the eulogy. The family might ask you to say a few words about the deceased, especially if you were close to the person. As a minister, sometimes you won't even know the dearly departed. It can be daunting to think about providing a eulogy and speaking at a funeral, but you can do it. It's an honor to be asked to speak. Here, we're going to give you some tips to help you through the process.
Preparation Is Important
Giving a public speech is often intimidating enough. When you add the emotional impact of a funeral, it can make it even scarier to get up in front of all those people. Don't rely on inspiration to keep you talking. Instead, you are going to prepare your thoughts and even practice in front of a mirror. The first thing you should do is write down some of the most important things you want to say about the deceased. We suggest:
How did you meet the deceased? Include a personal story about the person that demonstrates the character of the deceased. Maybe add a favorite saying that the individual always used. What would you want the deceased to be remembered for?
The eulogy doesn't have to be very long. You may want to keep it under five minutes, simply to prevent the funeral from getting too drawn out. Always ask the family how much time you have to speak.
Now that you have three or four elements, how do you want to put these things together? You don't have to go chronologically or give facts about the deceased. That's what the obituary is for. Write out what you plan to say. Take time to read it out loud. Time yourself. Revise. Read the revision. Once you have the basic outline, read it to someone else. Practice in front of a mirror to know how you appear when you're talking. Print out a final copy in a bigger font to read at the lectern of the funeral.
If you don't know the deceased, you are going to have to do some research. Talk to a couple of the family members and get information and stories about the person. Try to find someone who may not be able to speak at the funeral, like one of the younger children of the deceased. The family may have some specific things that they want you to say.
During the Funeral
Relax. You do not need to be perfect when giving the eulogy. This is not a class where the teacher will grade your speech. This is a remembrance of the deceased. If you choke up during the eulogy, take a moment and compose yourself. No one will think any less of you for displaying your grief.
Read the speech from the outline. This keeps you from getting off topic and forgetting what is important. It's also easier to focus on words on paper than on the family, who may be crying in the front row. If there is an outburst while you're speaking, you may want to pause. Don't bring attention to the interruption. If people laugh while you're giving the eulogy, it's okay. Laughter is healing and can be a relief, even in grief. You're not going for laughs, but you can bring humor to the words you say.
Your eulogy is a gift to the family and to the deceased. They're aren't expecting perfection, just compassion. You can give a eulogy that will be memorable and honor the person and the family. Don't panic, just prepare.