It is impossible to sum up a life story in a few minutes. However, we can tell stories and recall memories in valuable and creative ways.
A helpful eulogy is much more than a list of dates, but it is right to include important 'milestones' - birth and marriage, significant moves and changes of career.
Often it may be better to begin with a poem or reading than simply with a birth date. If the subject of the eulogy had a particular spiritual outlook or favourite passage of literature, it may be easy to choose something that sets the tone perfectly.
At other times, a story or a little historical background may help. For example, if a person was born in the Hutt Valley in the 1920's, our talk might begin with a word-sketch of what life was like in the town in those days.
The eulogy should act as a springboard for others to call to mind their own special memories. So, talk about your feelings for this special person. Tell some stories about your experiences with him or her. Anecdotes are a splendid way to celebrate life - there is no reason to avoid the things that were amusing or even mildly irreverent!
Many immediate family members may understandably feel unable to speak publicly themselves, yet have important things to say. Check with them. If they want to offer a few words or a precious memory, try to briefly include these ingredients.
As a very general guide, we offer the following checklist of things you may want to include...
"A picture is worth a thousand words" - and that is often true. Many families like to display some photographs or other life symbols at the funeral service.
Photographs need not be recent, provided they are characteristic of a person's life. Sometimes, a family photo or other group shot can be just the thing to capture personality.
We can arrange enlargements and enhancement of existing photos quickly and cheaply. This can be really useful if you want to lift a single image from a larger picture.
Other items, like a favourite hat, prized trophy, art or craft sample, tennis racquet or golf club, can all help symbolise a life. The possibilities are vast. Sometimes, family members like to bring these symbolic items with them, and place them on or near the casket before or after the eulogy.
Finally, a carefully chosen piece of music can provide a pleasant reflective space after the eulogy. This may reflect the personal taste of the deceased, or simply be a track that the family find helpful for themselves.