By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 08-04-2021
Reading a sample eulogy can really help when you're facing the task of preparing a memorial speech for someone you love.
The tyranny of a blank sheet paper and a numb mind, together with the desire to 'get it right' is the perfect recipe for confusion. You start, you stop. You write. Then you cross out what you've written. I've been there too.
It's my hope that the eulogy samples here will get you over the threshold of 'shall I say this, or shall I say that', to begin.
You'll see that there are no definitive right or wrong ways to honor a life. Yes, there are guidelines or suggestions about how to write a memorial speech*, what to put in and what to leave out, but ultimately, the choice is yours.
*If you want to see the suggestions I put together after getting through the anxiety of indecision, click the link. I've also added a free printable eulogy planning template to that page because I know how time consuming, and hard, struggling to write can be.
These funeral speeches were written for an elderly neighbor and my sister. You are most welcome to use them as spring-boards for the speech you need to write.
Although they are very different in style, both are personal tributes marking characteristics I valued and loved about each of them.
Malcolm and his wife, Margaret 'retired' into our neighborhood. Both were extremely quiet people who spent most of their time making their house and garden beautiful.
Malcolm was a little man physically but large in generosity. He had been a hard working builder, the ultimate 'do-it-yourself' guy. Over the years he transformed their little patch and we spent many happy times swapping gardening hints and plant cuttings.
His funeral service was exactly what he wanted: simple and non-religious.
We heard Malcolm before we met him. And that was an irony as we later found out.
He and Margaret had scarcely moved into our street before the concrete mixer started growling. It rumbled and roared for weeks on end as Malcolm transformed his back yard into what would become a showcase for his flowers and vegetables.
Our cat EVEREADY engineered the introduction bringing us together. She was small, black, full of energy, had at least nine lives, we thought, and was ever-ready for a feed or a cuddle.
During that time there was no-one at home through the day and EVEREADY roamed. She inevitably found Malcolm and Margaret. It was true love. She had a second home and was utterly spoiled. There were special treats of milk and more. They called her ‘our little girl’ and I got regular updates of her daily adventures.
When she became ill, and it was apparent she'd run out of lives, it was Malcolm and Margaret who accompanied me to the vet for her final visit.
Aside from loving our cat, I also discovered we had something else in common.
Malcolm loved plants and in particular flowers. He spent his day light hours fussing over them outside and then his nights inside, embroidering them.
His hands, so capable with a concrete mixer or a shovel, could also turn out fine needlework. I have several of his cross stitched treasures.
To me they represent his patience, perseverance and quiet endurance. Toward the end, even in severe pain, he worked on creating these little beauties.
Malcolm called me the Flower–Fairy, a name given because when I went past their letterbox for my evening walk I often dropped in a flower from what ever was blooming in my garden.
In return I now call him the Flower–Elf. I know I won’t sit down to embroider as he did so instead I offer up a thought posy.
Here’s rosemary sweet and aromatic for remembrance.
A snip of pale pink rosebuds for friendship
A collection of pansies for loving thoughts
Some larkspur signifying a beautiful spirit
And lastly, because, I know you’ll remember the alstroemeria (Peruvian lily) I gave you: how it invaded your garden and how hard you worked to get rid of it, some of that too. It stands for ‘aspiring’ and I know it will make you smile.
Thank-you Malcolm for your gentle love, friendship and kindness. We will remember you.
Rather than write a formal 'sentence by sentence' eulogy, I chose to take 'snapshots' featuring the two of us as children. The result is largely a collection of memories.
Despite being a series of recollections there is a three-part structure. It opens with her birth and the qualities she brought with her. The middle section is devoted to her and I. The ending returns to the start with a summary of her qualities. The repetition of her name throughout was to reinforce her being made up of many individual parts even though all of them were called 'Elizabeth'.
I've asterisked the parts you may need further explanation for in order to understand them.
Elizabeth: an enormous capacity and will to live.
Our mother spent many of the months she carried her in bed, in order that she stayed put and grew. Even so she was impatient and arrived early.
Elizabeth: 'Mrs Me Too'. I did the talking. She simply said ‘Me too.’
Elizabeth: a whirl of arms and legs, turning cartwheels on the lawn with her skirt tucked into her knickers.
Elizabeth: determined to be a marching girl and practicing up and down the concrete path to the clothesline.
Elizabeth and I, after having been to see the movie of the musical *South Pacific, singing to the hollyhocks in the garden under the kitchen window. We snapped our fingers in time and danced: ‘Walky, Walky Talky Hollyhocks, Talk about things you like to do…’
Elizabeth and I having elaborate doll’s tea parties under the buddleia trees. Their perfume still reminds me. We gave the dolls pink nail polish fingers and toes. A moment of inspiration later they had splendid sets of nipples too.
Elizabeth and I wearing hand knitted pale blue fluffy boleros and the other kids picking at the fluff.
Elizabeth and I in our *‘show’ dresses. Hers was white with red spots. When it rained the dye ran red down her bare legs. She cried but later won a kewpie doll on a stick which brought back a smile.
Elizabeth and I playing music. She on the piano and me on the violin.
Bach's Minuet in G getting faster and faster until the notes collided into each other and our Mother shouted for peace.
Elizabeth trying to teach me to do a handstand and I kept falling over.
Elizabeth: a tumult of passions, sensitivities, hopes, fears and abilities.
The qualities I know to be true, despite the numbing rumble of daily life, were her deep desire to understand, her striving for peace, love and to honor and use her abilities creatively.
Elizabeth was and is a highly intelligent, articulate, courageous and adventurous woman. I loved her.
*South Pacific: The song was actually Happy Talk. The original lyric was 'Happy talk, keep talkin' happy talk, Talk about things you'd like to do'.
At eight and ten years old, Elizabeth and I heard it differently and there were hollyhocks flowering in our garden under the kitchen window. Naturally we sang our song to them. I remember hearing our mother and father laughing, and then seeing them both peep, smiling, through the window at the pair of us. Our duet became part of family history.
*'show' dresses. We lived in a rural area. Each spring there was a huge agricultural show and everybody went. In those days, (1960s) girls got new dresses for the occasion, usually sewn by their mothers.
Remember, there are no absolutely 'right' ways to write a memorial speech except that you are honest, respectful, and sincere.
Go well. Write with courage and love.
(This article was originally published on write-out-loud.com)