Dear Funeral Director:
I’ve been asked by my cousins if I would give the eulogy for my uncle when he passes. He’s my godfather and I love him like a father, but I’ve been really nervous since they asked me. And he hasn’t even passed away yet! I’m grateful that they thought to ask me but I’m petrified to talk in front of people and I’m not a good writer. What do I do? Can you please help?
Paul T., Stamford, CT
Thanks for emailing me your question. This is a very common fear. Trust me; you’re not alone. Just the thought of speaking in public throws many people into a panic and frenzy. Add that to having to speak about the death of someone you loved dearly and it’s very easy to understand your nervousness. Remember, you were asked to give the eulogy because of the closeness you shared with your uncle, and because your cousins trust you to honor you’re his memory. Know that they don’t mean to make you uncomfortable or to put your grief on public display. Instead, it’s an honor your cousins have trusted you with. Plus, helping others say a final goodbye usually turns out to be a really rewarding experience. A eulogy comes from the heart of the deliverer, and as long as it’s honest and true, mistakes can’t be made. You don’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist to move people with your words. Everyone has a story to tell and that’s your primary responsibility as a eulogist. Just tell the people your story as it relates to your relationship with your uncle and his family. Do your best to write that story in an informal, conversational tone. Think of your uncle’s attributes, fond memories and times that you shared together. Personalizing it by including his favorite poems, book passages, scripture verses, quotes, or expressions that he always used. Whatever is included, it should reflect upon the way your uncle lived his life. Public speaking may not be easy, but you can do it. A funeral is one time you’ll surely have an empathetic audience. They will feel for you and will be on your side. The time you’ll speak is will be about five to ten minutes, but the impact of this time will live on in the hearts of family and friends for a long time. If you’re concerned about choking up in middle of your eulogy, simply take a moment to compose yourself and do your best to carry on. If you don’t feel that you may not be able to get through it, have a backup person ready to step in, or provide a copy of the eulogy to the clergy or funeral director so they can finish in the event that you’re unable to. For additional help, there are many resources available to you on the Internet, at the local library or bookstore. Good luck. I know you’ll make your godfather proud.