Finding inspiration when writing a eulogy
If you've been asked to do a eulogy for a family member or even a friend, your first feeling often is pride — which is quickly followed by stress as you begin to think, “What do I say?”
Penning a eulogy takes effort and care. Rarely do our English classes in school give lessons on eulogy writing. So one of the best ways to learn how to pen a eulogy is by reading others.
Below, you’ll find a few well-written eulogies that can help motivate you. We’re not saying you should copy these eulogies but rather pull ideas from them. You’ll also find a list of popular Bible verses and passages others have used in eulogies or homilies during memorial and funeral services. Sometimes, these can stir some thoughts about what to say as well.
And finally, we’ve included a list of quotations regarding life and death. You can recite these in the eulogy or even use one as the basis for your eulogy.
EULOGIES WORTH READING
On Jan. 30, 1965, Sir Robert Menzies, the Australian prime minister, reminded mourners that one man can not only unite a country but many countries when it came to standing up to, what appeared, overwhelming evil. Menzies' stirring words remembering Sir Winston Churchill shows us how a eulogy doesn’t always need to touch every part of a person’s life but can focus on those points that really made the individual stand out.
“In the whole of recorded modern history, this was, I believe, the one occasion when one man, with one soaring imagination, with one fire burning in him, and with one unrivalled capacity for conveying it to others, won a crucial victory not only for the forces (for there were many heroes in those days) but for the very spirit of human freedom. And so, on this great day, we thank him, and we thank God for him.”
When U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke during Bob Hope’s funeral Aug. 27, 2003, she sprinkled in the words of others within her eulogy. While we often ask, “What can I say?” about the person, sometimes, it’s worth reading or remembering what others said and find a way to incorporate that in your tribute. Just remember to credit the person who first said or wrote it and also make sure it fits in your eulogy. If you just scribble it in there because it sounds nice but doesn’t relate to your eulogy, people will know.
“When another president — Abraham Lincoln — died in the house across the street from Ford's Theater, his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, standing at Lincoln's side, said, 'Now, he belongs to the ages.' The same is equally true of Bob Hope. He is not America's; he is the world's. He belongs not to our age, but to all ages. And yet, even though he belongs to all time and to all peoples, he is our own, for he was quintessentially American.”
Maya Angelou inspired the nation, and the world, with her words. After the death of Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angelou reminded the world of Mrs. King’s dedication to the fight against injustice. But it wasn’t enough just to remind us. So in her eulogy for Mrs. King, Angelou pushed us to keep going in the direction toward which Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife helped point us. While eulogies often recount a person’s life, they also can be used to inspire listeners to pick up where the person left off or even achieve their own dreams.
“And those of us who gather here, principalities, presidents, senators, those of us who run great companies, who know something about being parents, who know something about being preachers and teachers ... we owe something from this minute on, so that this gathering is not just another footnote on the pages of history. We owe something. I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease. I mean to say I want to see a better world. I mean to say I want to see some peace somewhere. I mean to say I want to see some honesty, some fair play. I want to see kindness and justice. This is what I want to see, and I want to see it through my eyes and through your eyes, Coretta Scott King.”
“And so today, I have the courage to stand in front of you and celebrate Mychal’s life. For it is his life that speaks, not his death. It is his courage that he showed on Tuesday that speaks, not my fear. And it is his hope and belief in the goodness of all people that speaks, not my despair. And so I am here to talk about my friend.”
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last, he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” — Job 19:25
“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” — Ecclesiastes 5:4
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” — Matthew 5:4
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may also be. And you know the way to where I am going.” — John 14:1-4
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” — 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ... For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” — Isaiah 41:10,13
“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” — Psalms 119:50
Bible Readings 1 Corinthians 13 1 Corinthians 15: 42-57 or 1 Corinthians 15 full text Romans 8: 31-39 Ecclesiastes 3 (To everything there is a season) Revelation 21:1-7 John 6:35-40 John 11:17-27 Psalm 103:8-17
“Perhaps they are not the stars, But rather openings in heaven where The love of our lost ones pour through And shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” — Eskimo legend
“Say not to grief: ‘He is no more,’ but live in thankfulness that he was.” — Hebrew Proverb
“If I should go before the rest of you Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone, Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice But be the usual selves that I have known. Weep if you must, Parting is hell, But life goes on, So sing as well.” — Joyce Grenfell
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard
“If we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, since it comes from the hand of the same master.” — Michelangelo
“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” — Cherokee expression
“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” — Winston Churchill
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” — Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
“It is not length of life, but depth of life.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, not touched, but are felt in the heart.” — Helen Keller
“Death — the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening.” — Walter Scott
“The song is ended, but the melody lingers on ...” — Irving Berlin
“The boundaries between life and death are at best shadowing and vague. Who shall say where one ends and where the other begins?” — Edgar Allen Poe
“The comfort of having a friend may be taken away, but not that of having had one.” — Seneca
“We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne
Find more articles like this in Final Arrangements Guide