When I was studying at Dallas Institute of Funeral Service, I had to take a speech class. If you know me at all, I am a little on the quiet side. So when I saw the syllabus, I just knew that this was going to be my least favorite class (after chemistry, that is)!
No matter what your personality type, whether you are outgoing or introverted, carefree or an empath, chances are the thought of giving a speech in front of a crowd of people gives you the willies, at least at first.
If you are asked to give a eulogy for someone you love who has passed away, you can add onto that all the emotional stresses that come with it…it can turn into a daunting task for anyone.
Some people say it helps to practice giving your speech in front of a mirror. Others say it’s best to pretend that everyone in your audience is wearing polka-dotted underwear on their heads! Still others suggest maintaining eye contact with one person in the audience the entire time (as if that’s not awkward at all!)
While some of those tips may be helpful for you, none of them have personally helped me the few times in my life I’ve had to give a speech! (If you are curious, what did help me during my college speech class was to remember that everyone else was far more concerned about how their own speeches were going to go, than how mine was going!)
DISCLAIMER: I may be a writer of eulogies, but I’m not an orator in any way, shape, or form. For what it’s worth though, here are some of the best tips I could think of for overcoming nervousness while giving a speech, and specifically a eulogy (I will probably be coming back to this blog in the future if I am ever tasked with giving a speech or eulogy myself!):
Hopefully you found this blog helpful! For more tips on giving a eulogy, check out these links from Eulogies by Aubrey’s Resources & Help page:
It’s not really something you think about on a daily basis. Maybe it has crossed your mind once or twice, probably when thinking about who you’d want (or wouldn’t want!) planning your funeral or giving your eulogy.
But think about it. If you were to pass away today (God forbid)…what would your own eulogy say?
While all of us would, of course, hope for good things to be said about us -- and for the happy parts of our life to be highlighted -- thinking about our own funeral and eulogy gives us a much-needed pause and a chance to think deeply about our life thus far.
…What will your eulogy say?
There are many quotes and sayings and songs out there sharing worn-out wisdom about living your best life, staying positive despite your circumstances, keeping the faith when the going gets tough, and staying humble when blessings do come your way:
“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”
“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.”
“A thankful heart is a happy heart.”
“Do more things that make you forget to check your phone…!”
Such quotes are dipped in honey and do sometimes help us to find the motivation to put our best foot forward in life, especially when we are looking for inspiration. But do we really take any of these words to heart, at least as much as we should like? And are more than just a few of these quotes focused on bettering the world around us, helping our fellow man...?
What will your eulogy say?
In other words, what is the legacy you wish to leave behind for your family and friends? Will it be, “Her business was the most important thing to her. She took a chance on herself and didn’t let anyone stand in her way. She was the definition of a boss babe!” Or, “He loved his family, but anyone who knew him knew that his baby was that old lake house. ” Or, “It was obvious that things didn’t come easy for her, but her self-confidence pushed her to achieve everything she wanted in life.”
Or would it be, “He had a wonderful and giving heart. Anyone down on his luck could come to him for help without fear of judgement.” Or, “While she did not have much, she gave much of her heart.” Or, “His bright personality lit up any room he walked into. His presence was larger than life and anyone who had a chance to meet him was left with this lasting impression.”
What will your eulogy say?
The term eulogy is actually from the Greek, and translates to something close enough to true words. By reason of pure definition, a eulogy can be given in honor or praise of someone who is living and still be called a eulogy. But generally, the term refers to a speech given at a funeral in memory of someone who has died.
Callimachus, the classical Greek poet, may have been the first to implement the eulogy (or elegy, as he called it) in honor of his late friend Heraclitus. A translation of this piece may be found here: https://www.bartleby.com/101/759.html
First transcribed in the 1400s as the Latin eulogium, today’s eulogies are the offspring of the antiquated elegy, and place a spotlight on the life and legacy of a person who has recently passed away. (Eulogies differ from obituaries, which are more like notifications that a death has occurred, like those found in a newspaper.)
The Greeks and Romans made great use of elegies in their writings, and this romantic, emotional style of expression continued to be popular even into the 1800s. Writers such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Gray, Katherine Philips and W.H. Auden published elegies in honor of someone they had loved and lost.
Nowadays, elegies have evolved into eulogies, which are no longer just poems and which are spoken primarily at funerals or wakes. Eulogies can be still be customized, however, as poetry or as any style of writing befitting of the person who is being memorialized.
Click below to read some of the more well-known elegies of old.
~In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1849
~Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray, 1750
~Stop All the Clocks (or Funeral Blues) by W.H. Auden, 1938
~Epitaph by Katherine Philips, 1654
I’ve always had a fascination with Jackie O. I have a fascination in general with American life and culture during the post-war era, circa 1950s-60s. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, to me, seems to encapsulate that time period.
For all her glamour, intelligence, and poise, Jackie Kennedy was no stranger to sorrow. When she passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1994, she had been widowed twice and was working as a book editor for Doubleday. The former First Lady and husband of President John F. Kennedy had always had a passion for reading and writing and, in the years before she met the senator who would become her husband, had worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C.
Senator Ted Kennedy was tasked with giving the eulogy at her funeral, which he did very elegantly. In a little over 900 words, he was able to shine a light on the bright and intelligent spirit that she was, while also giving respect where it was due to the heavy sorrows she so graciously carried throughout much of her life.
“She had a wonderful sense of humor, a way of focusing on someone with total attention, and a little girl delight in who they were and what they were saying. It was a gift of herself that she gave to others. And in spite of all her heartache and loss, she never faltered.”
Her heartache in life was indeed very great. Born in 1929, she had a difficult childhood that sometimes seeped its way back into her adult life. In 1956 her first child, a daughter named Arabella, was born still. She dealt with demoralizing tabloid rumors about her husband’s alleged affairs while still raising their two children under the spotlight of a critical nation. In August 1963 she lost another child, their son Patrick, when he was two days old. She subsequently developed depression (“melancholy after the death of my baby”), and was ultimately traumatized only three months later by President Kennedy’s violent assassination. She would later marry her longtime friend, the Greek shipping tycoon Ari Onassis, and move her young family to Greece until his death in 1975.
She would never marry again, but after moving back to New York Jackie Onassis kept a companionship with businessman Maurice Tempelsman until her death. Mercifully, she would not live to see the tragic death of her eldest son, John F. Kennedy, Jr.
She is interred at Arlington National Cemetery with her first husband, John F. Kennedy, and her children Arabella and Patrick, under the eternal flame. In 2015 I was able to visit this sacred ground with my Aunt Debbie, and we took this snapshot:
If you want to read more about Jackie Kennedy, here are a couple of links that may be of interest!