If you have ever had the task of writing a eulogy, then you know that coming up with the first line can be the most difficult. That first line is especially important, because it has the ability to capture the attention of those listening. You want to find an opening line that will draw the listeners in and make them eager to hear the rest of what you have to say.
You do not have to be a professional writer to find an appropriate first line. Inspiration can be found in a number of places.
The opening line of a eulogy can be a quote, a scripture verse or a sentence that will make the listeners pay attention. Below are examples of good and bad opening lines for a eulogy.
To everything there is a season, and the season of John’s life on this earth is now passed.
The fact that we are gathered here today is proof that sometimes God says “no”.
Thanks for coming. This is a sad day for all of us.
As you all know, John was a great guy.
There are many ways to be inspired about that all important opening line. If you are a religious person, you could read scriptures about life and death. You could scour books and Web sites for quotes from famous writers about death and coping with loss. You can also think about these questions: What is the one thing you want those in attendance to remember about his life? What is the one thing you would tell him if you had one more chance to do so?
Inspiration can be found in many places. You usually will not have a lot of time to put together a eulogy. Since you will likely only have a day or two, you should begin to think about the first line right away. Jot down any ideas that you have. It might be that some of those notes end up not being appropriate, but it is still a good idea to write down anything that inspires you.
You will likely find that once you have settled on the first line that the rest of the eulogy will flow much more easily. Begin the writing process by finding that first line. It will set the tone for the rest of the eulogy and, once selected, will make the rest of the writing process much smoother.
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Putting together a touching and meaningful eulogy can seem difficult for a number of reasons. One of the most obvious is that you are likely trying to eulogize someone that you cared about, and the pain of the loss is brand new. This can make finding inspiration a bit difficult.
One of the best ways to find inspiration when writing a eulogy is to draw on memories. As you begin to write, try to remember if he said anything that would lend itself to your eulogy. For example, a woman was writing a eulogy for her brother who had died after a long battle with cancer. About a month before he died he said, “Sometimes we have to give in and let go.” She used that as the opening line of the eulogy.
It is not just spoken words that can be incorporated into a eulogy. Use your lifetime of memories of the one being eulogized to help bring the eulogy to life. You can do this by mentioning what he liked to do, funny things that he said or even a memorable faux pas that he made. Each of those can add another layer to the eulogy and will help those gathered to learn something about him that they did not know.
A very effective writing tool is to use a memory as a thread that runs through the eulogy. This will help to tie the whole thing together, making it even more impactful and memorable. Below is a brief example of how to use a memory in this way.
In the opening paragraph:
When we were kids, he always had to be first. First at the table. First to the school bus. First to the pile of presents under the Christmas tree.
About halfway through the eulogy:
One of the reasons that he loved being first was that he’d be able to have something to teach those of us who showed up later. If he got the Christmas tree first, he could say “Your presents are over there!” If he got to the table first, he could say “You won’t like the vegetables tonight!” He loved to have a bit of knowledge that the rest of us didn’t have yet.
In the closing paragraph:
He loved to be first. Now, he is first to pass from this life. I believe that he is waiting for us, and will greet us with that big grin, and an eagerness to show us all around his wonderful new home.
Of course, a brief mention of a memory can be just as meaningful. Just be careful not to weigh down the eulogy with a long list of memories. Instead, choose one or two of your favorites and incorporate them in such a way that they flow well with the rest of the eulogy.
If you are delivering a eulogy, it is likely that you were quite close to the person who died. This can make it difficult to deliver the eulogy without being overcome by emotion. Of course, some measure of emotion is expected, but if you become too emotional, you may be unable to finish the eulogy, and may regret this down the road.
While there is no way to avoid feeling the pain that goes along with such an occasion, there are steps that you can take to help prevent becoming so emotional that you cannot deliver the entire eulogy.
- Read it Over and Over
One of the best tips to avoid becoming overly emotional is to read your eulogy over and over again. Read it out loud several times prior to the funeral. The reason for this is that doing so will help you to become a bit numb to the words.
Most eulogies contain phrasing that will stir up emotions, especially when heard for the first time. If you can read the eulogy out loud several times, the words may lose a bit of their impact and make it easier for you to get through the entire eulogy without breaking down.
- Avoid Eye Contact
While public speaking classes will teach that you should make eye contact, if you are trying to avoid becoming emotional, it is best to avoid this. Just look at the audience in general, while avoiding eye contact with any one person.
Of course, this advice is intended for those who are concerned they will become overly emotional. If this is not a problem for you then it is perfectly appropriate to make eye contact with those in attendance.
- Speak Slowly
When you concentrate on speaking slowly, that can help to lessen the chances that you will become terribly emotional. The reason is simply that you are focusing on your speech patterns rather than on the actual words that you are saying.
Funerals are an emotional time. There are no tips that will help every single person to avoid becoming emotional when delivering a eulogy. Just remember that the words that you will say are with the intent to honor the person that you have lost. For that reason, it is important that you do all that you can to be able to deliver the entire eulogy in a way that those in attendance can understand.
Use the above tips to save your emotions for the time after the eulogy has been delivered. This is not always easy, but it is worth it in order to be able to deliver the eulogy and in that way pay your respects to the one you have lost.
photo credit: EmilyGrace Photography