The idea of life-time funeral eulogies doesn’t, at first sight, make a lot of sense. Why would you write a eulogy when still alive? What’s the point?
A good turn
You may not care much what happens at your funeral. Once you’re dead, that’s probably it. Your family can work out what they want to include and exclude, can’t they?
However, for the next-of-kin, quite a lot has to happen – normally, in a fairly short length of time (about 10 days). This includes the legal bits (obtaining the medical certificate and then registering the death). It probably also includes organising the funeral itself and the reception or wake.
Then, ordinary life still has to go on. And, more significantly, the next-of-kin may well be in a state of shock – it could be grief, anger, bewilderment, depression, resentment – and that makes the whole process more traumatic and difficult.
But what if the deceased (or the family) had already planned the funeral service – including the eulogy? Then there would be no doubts about how religious the service should be, or who should participate. This would resolve difficult questions – and avoid disagreements and arguments at such a difficult time.
If all this were already settled, what a favour that would prove to be for the next-of-kin!
One other reason why I, as a civil celebrant, sometimes get asked to write a lifetime funeral is because the client may be very definite about what they want for the big day. Religion is a huge factor in this – they may absolutely reject the idea of mentioning God, or they want a jolly celebration of life with their own choice of music, say, or readings.
One reason why I get asked to write a lifetime eulogy is so that the client can be in control of what goes in – and what is omitted! This way, the facts are almost guaranteed to be right (though sometimes a little nuanced!), and an appropriate picture is painted. The tone can be chosen and any rituals specified. The venue also.
It has to be noted that this funeral service is not legally enforceable. You can leave instructions with the will, but these may not be opened in time. They can be ignored. It is therefore best to inform your next-of-kin of your wishes (and leave a copy with them). It’s even wiser if you discuss all this with them first, so they are ‘on side’ when the time comes!
When I started out as a funeral celebrant, I decided to write a eulogy about myself, by way of practice. What I discovered was that it was a useful exercise for another reason.
By writing out what I had achieved in my life, I was forced to consider more deeply what I had always taken for granted.
I have always had some problems with self-esteem. By actually describing what I had done in my life, I came to realise that I had done at least a few things that I had real reason to be proud of. That really helped my self-development and self-confidence.
I would therefore recommend to anyone that they go through this process. They can write it themselves, or invite a civil celebrant to ask the necessary questions and put it together for them.
Doing this may well boost their self-esteem, but it may also prove to be a real benefit for their next-of-kin after they die. On the day, the public will also hear what the deceased would like them to hear – and that could include a personal message or two. Win-win!
For advice on any of the above issues, Michael would be delighted to help.
Top photo: Aaron Burden