How to Write a Eulogy

black microphone
The day after my dad committed suicide, I sat down at my parents’ kitchen table, fired up my laptop, and got to work on my dad’s eulogy. Just like with the writing of his obituary, this task was not directly assigned to me, but it was simply inferred that I would be the one to provide remarks on behalf of my small family. Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
My dad was an excellent father to me and I took the task of writing his eulogy very seriously. At the time, I viewed writing my dad’s eulogy as one of the final acts of love I could afford him. In a time of so much chaos, this eulogy was one of the only things I could control and I clung to this task life a life preserver that was keeping me afloat.
In a time of so much chaos, this eulogy was one of the only things I could control and I clung to this task life a life preserver that was keeping me afloat.
The day of the funeral we had the calling hours immediately before. I had been on my feet for hours, thanking people for coming in a surreal and dazed way. When it was time for the funeral to start, I took my seat, sandwiched between my mom and my husband. The funeral began with three songs, and then our pastor called me up to give the eulogy. I had given speeches to rooms full of thousands of people, but nothing would have prepared me for the most important message I would ever have to deliver.
I stood up, a little unsteady, with a piece of white computer paper shaking in my hands. My hands braced each side of the podium and I stared out at the hundreds of grieving family and friends in the audience-waiting for me to share my message. I focused on my sister-in-law, Annie and her kind tear-stained eyes. I took a deep breath, exhaled loudly, and unconsciously said aloud, “Okay, I hope I’m able to do this” and began delivering my 3 minute eulogy. During that time, I had people engaged, laughing, and crying. At the end, I took another deep sigh of relief, smiled a sad smile, and headed back to my seat in the front row.
I did it. I executed the message perfectly and miraculously I did not shed a tear. I completed the most difficult task I’d been assigned to date. Afterwards, one of our family friends, who was a former mayor, told my best friend “If Misti could get though that, she can get through anything.” I tend to agree and now whenever I am feeling overwhelmed at work or at home, I think about that moment and draw strength in knowing that if I could successfully get through delivering my dad’s eulogy, I can get through anything else life throws at me.
If I could successfully get through delivering my dad’s eulogy, I can get through anything else life throws at me.
I hope you are not tasked with writing and delivering a eulogy anytime soon. But if you do find yourself in that position, I would like to share the structure of the eulogy I wrote. And I’ve also included the eulogy I wrote for my dad below. I found that there are not many resources on this topic, and I know I would have appreciated some type of template or structure to follow when I was writing my dad’s eulogy.

Suggested Eulogy Structure

  1. Thank everyone for coming: You are the voice of your family and the beginning of the eulogy is the prime time to thank everyone for their support. This will also give you time to calm any nerves and to get into the flow of delivering the message you want to convey.
  2. Share a story (or two): Provide a couple stories about your loved one that will engage the attendees.
  3. Add some humor, if possible (and appropriate): The tone at the funeral will most likely be somber and many will appreciate the comedic relief of a good joke, especially if your loved one had a comical personality and zeal for life.
  4. Share something personal: This is your time to be raw and vulnerable. If you are giving a eulogy, you were one of the most important people in that person’s life. You are going to have many intimate memories. Talk about what you are going to miss the most. It’s okay if you cry.
  5. End on a high note: Tie up your eulogy in a nice package with a great ending. Share a quote that sums up the overall sentiment or share one final piece of advice your loved one bestowed on you.
As promised, here is the eulogy that I wrote and delivered for my dad. If you have to write a eulogy for a loved one, you are more than welcome to use this as a template if it speaks to you. And remember: even though you might feel like you can’t get through this, you will.

My Dad’s Eulogy

First, I would like to thank everyone for their support and outpouring of love during the most difficult time in our lives. It has been so positively overwhelming to know how much my dad and our family are loved. I know many people came from near and far to pay their respects, and on behalf of our entire family, thank you for your support as I am well aware that each person in attendance is going through some type of grieving as well. Please look around the room and know that each and everyone one of us has a support group of people to lean on during this terrible tragedy. We will get through this together, because we are all in this together.

I was going to bring my flute and play a song for this eulogy for my dad. As many of you know, I used to be a very accomplished “flutist.” However, many of you also probably know that my dad HATED it when I played my flute! Don’t get me wrong, he was so proud of my accomplishments. He went to every band concert and marching band competition, took me to private lessons and solo competitions, and supported band fundraisers by selling instants at our school’s smoke filled and absolutely disgusting Bingo hall—if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

But he REALLY did not like the sound of the flute. Or the song choices my band director selected. He always asked me why Jethro Tull songs were not in the repertoire. To my dad’s annoyance, I was one of the good kids who practiced every day. He always told me to practice each night when he went down the road to play the lottery so he didn’t have to listen, so that’s what I usually did. One time recently, my parents were at our house. I had pulled out my old flute and was playing it for Blake. My husband, Aaron and my dad were sitting on the couch and he looked over at Aaron and said, “Well…I don’t miss THAT!” So…dad, for you, I will not play a song tonight in your honor.

As I was writing my dad’s obituary the other day, we have copies in the back of you would like to take one, I was thinking of ways to describe him and asked many of you in the room to do the same. What came up repeatedly was that my dad was just an all-around good guy who was, to simply put it, NICE and thoughtful. Please raise your hand if Kendall Parsley did something to change your life for the better—helped you fix something at your house, loaned you a tool, shared fishing advice (or a trip) with you, gave you a beer, a pirated movie, or something else? [WAIT FOR HANDS TO RAISE—PAUSE].

I have so many “nice guy” memories of my dad, because he was especially nice to me. One of the last occurrences that comes to mind has to do with ANTS. As many of you know, I DO NOT like bugs. At all. And especially NOT in my house. Well, this Spring I had ants in my house. I suppose it was not the end of the world, but to me it was an INFESTATION! Of course, Aaron was out of town for work. So the first thing I think of is to call my dad. I asked him, “How do I get these ants out of my house?!” He told me a couple of things to do. I am not proud to admit this, but I perhaps had a bit of a meltdown. Then, my dad said that he did not have a fishing trip the next day and offered to come to my house to get rid of the ants. So…he drove the hour-plus drive the next day with supplies in hand, sprayed around my house, and showed me what to do in the future. For some reason, I worked from home that day and was able to see him. He did not stay long, he had to get back for his couple’s bowling league, but I am so glad I was there to see him and I am so grateful for all the big and little things he constantly did for me throughout my life.

The other word to describe my dad is funny. He had such a fantastic sense of humor full of sarcasm and wit, which I would like to think I inherited. This is the type of person whose natural response to Aaron asking my parents’ permission to marry me was, “I saw on Dr. Phil that the average wedding costs $30,000.” Really?! 1) Why are you watching Dr. Phil? And 2) that’s really the only thing you have to say, Dad?!

When I look back at our text messages, we primarily talked through emojis and memes—most recently about his support of Donald Trump, his detest for Hilary Clinton (not trying to get political here…it’s just the truth!), and his love of Ohio State and hatred for all things Michigan. And when I see my dad in my mind’s eye, I see him wearing a hilarious t-shirt with a funny picture and/or saying on it. He would always send me text messages with links to these shirts. Sometimes it was a hint for me to buy one for him as a gift, but other times he would say “Nope—already bought it” and I would see him sporting his latest clothing find the next time I saw him.

I also would like to briefly mention, and only because this is the most raw and sensitive topic for me at this point in time, that my dad was an incredible Papa. He was a surprisingly excellent baby whisperer and he loved Blake from the moment I told him I was pregnant, to the night he held Blake in the hospital for the first time, and for the past two years. It was such a privilege to see their bond and seeing them together is definitely something I will miss the most.

Some of the best advice I have received is that grief is not something that you complete, but rather something you endure. So, as Sheryl Sandberg said in her most recent book—“lean in to the suck” and expect your life to be awful for a little while. But also know that Option A is not available so let’s just kick the shit out of Option B and FISH ON!

Fish On,

Misti

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s