Over the past years, the most sought-after blogs on this site have been those which speak about how to write a eulogy.  Because many of our members in Special Gathering are physically disabled or they have parents who are elderly, I get a lot of practice with funeral sermons and eulogies.  Here are a some of the steps I use to write a eulogy.

  1. Gather as much information about the person as you possibly can.  a) Interview people by phone, in necessary.  b) However, it is best to be able to sit down with family and friends and c) let them debrief themselves in your presence.  d) The family feed off our each other.  e) Be sure that the reluctant family members also get an opportunity to share.  f)  Even if you think you know the person and his/her family well, don’t depend on your impressions.  It will mean more if it comes from the family. g) even the most insignificant information canbe important to the family, if it helps to describe their loved one.
  2. As the family shares, try to find a hook–one word or attribute–that will describe the person,  i.e. encourager, humorous, playful, a server.  One family would only tell me that their brother was “good.”  I kept trying to find something else.  Then I realized that “goodness” was a fruit of the Spirit.  The sermon was richly embellished with the families generous descriptions of their “good” brother.
  3. Mold the information you have been given around this one outstanding attribute. 
  4. Let the family members or friends speak in your sermon.  Todd said…Melissa shared…  Quote them liberally. 
  5. Leave yourself completely out of the picture.  This is not about you.  I heard one sermon at a funeral where the preacher described the 100 sermons that he had preached at funerals in his 50 years as a pastor.  I thought it probably would’ve been good if he had kept the sermons at 99 and skipped the current one.  Pastor George told the congregants how much Tom, the deceased man, had loved and respected Pastor George.  It was an amazing bit of huberus.  Pretend for a few moments that you didn’t know the person and you have only recently discovered the characteristics of the person who died.
  6. Don’t gloss over the more unpleasant parts of the person but allow their defects to become humorous, if possible.  Or use the to contrast a positive aspect of the personality.   “Uncle Billy was possibly the most difficult person on earth because his experiences during the Viet Nam war had taught him the price of doing a job in a sloppy manner.”
  7. Use Scriptures liberally.  There are so many Scriptures that speak of the hope of our salvation. 
  8. Details, details, details paint the picture of the person.
  9. Share their experience with the Lord.  Tell of their salvation experience, if you can.
  10. If the person was not a Christian, explain that s/he would now desperately want his/her family to understand the importance of preparating themselves for eternity.  Giving a salvation message, doesn’t have to be heavy-handed.  “Each of us has the opportunity today to hear Susan’s voice as she speaks to us about the importance of heeding the good news of God’s love as shown through Jesus great sacrifice on the cross.  The simple prayer that says, ‘Father I love you.  Heal my heart of iniquity and make me a whole person again,’  may say more than an altar call after a message of damnation.
  11.  Include the Lord’s prayer.    

I’m including a sermon that I preached today about a woman who came to the Lord a few months before she died.  Perhaps, you can find the points discussed in this sermon.

Full Name

Date of the funeral or memorial service

Date Born

Born to Eternal Life:  Date died

II Corinthians 5:1-5 and 9

Remembered by

Your name and your relationship to the deceased 

Full name of the deceased is survived by

List survivors (usually the immediate family but ask the family who they would like for you to include.),

Full name of survivors and their relationship.

Prayer

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

          What is the sign of an exceptional life?  If you had the opportunity to look around Janet Williams (alias) home, you would be confronted by a massive collection of clowns.  Each one carefully selected by herself, her husband, Charlie, other members of the family or friends.  They have been thoughtfully arranged on glass shelves.  As she spoke about her clowns, Jane–as she was called by the family–would tenderly touch one and then another.  But a clown collection is not what made Jane’s life exceptional.

          Janet wasn’t an inventor or a world-class sports figure but her family and friends speak of her as an extraordinary person.  She was a private individual who didn’t quickly expose herself to one and all.  So…what are the characteristics of her life that made people speak of her in such term of endearment? 

          There was no doubt that Janet wanted her life and her work to be outstanding.  Each year, she traveled to North Carolina to get tomatoes that she would can.  Florida tomatoes would not do.  If she was going to do the hard work of canning, she wanted the product to be the best she could make.  But many people work hard and their lives remain ordinary. 

          With Janet small touches of love melded her heart into the heart of her admirers.  Her home was the hub of activity when family was around.  She wanted them to come and feel welcomed.  Even nieces and nephews knew that the doors to her house were always open for them.  Janet was a special gift for Patty, her sister-in-law.  Each night they talked on the phone and shared the happy, sad, large and small events of their day. 

          Janet‘s granddaughter, Terry explained, “When my mother died, Grandmother gave me my mother’s wedding rings. They had been handed down for generations.  It was the type of thoughtful gesture that marked the kind of person she was.”  Terry continued, “Of course, there were always Christmas gifts but she also sent Valentine cards and even Halloween cards,” Terry said.  “She never forgot us and she showed us her love all during the year.

          Terry said with a depth of raw feeling, “After my mother died when I was only 25, she become my mother.  Mom, grandmother and daughter had always been best friends,” Terry and her grandmother talked by the hour on the phone, encouraging and loving each other.  “Grandmother also showed the same love for my brother, Patrick,” Terry said.

          The Bible says, “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him” (Romans 12:3 The Message).  Continuing in Romans 12, Paul speaks of people who are by God’s grace, gifts of encouragements.  Janet was such a gift to her friends and family.

          When Nora and David, her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, went to Janet’s bank to let them know that she had died, the customer service representative was visibly shaken.  “Oh, no!” she said.  “She was such an encouragement to all of us.  She always asked about my family and especially my sons.  She never forgot them and was genuinely interested in me.”  This was the type of gift that Janet was. 

          Born in Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas day, Janet lived most of her 81 years in Michigan; but she and Charlie moved to Merritt Island about 18 years ago.  She had a heart attack a few years later.  This event meant drastic changes for Snook. 

          She had always smoked and always carried a cup of coffee with her.  After her illness, she gave up both completely.  She ate perfectly–no red meat.  She ate only chicken and turkey.  She drank some decaf tea but she was religious about her diet.

          She had retired from her job at Sears but soon found that she wanted to return to work and she did.  Hard work marked her life.  She continued to work after her husband died and she continued to work until cancer took a strangle hold on her body and weakness made work impossible.  

          The past three years without her beloved husband, Charlie, she had been lonely but she didn’t let that isolation scar her life.  She remained full of life and seemed healthy, she worked and kept going.  Last summer, she and a niece from Detroit went to Michigan to visit Terry and her great grandchildren.

          In February of this year, when Janet realized that she had bone cancer, she confronted her brother-in-law, David, “Am I going to die?”  she asked.

          David told Janet that it wasn’t a question of whether she was going to die.  We all die.  The important question was:  Where would she go when she died.  Janet asked that David pray with her and she turned her life over to the Lord Jesus in surrender to his will.  Her friend, Pam Gillespie said that each time Janet spoke to her, Janet asked for prayer.  Her relationship with the Lord became a predominant force in her life. 

          Paul tells us the marks of an exceptional life in Romans 12, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.  Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.  Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”  All through her life, Janet lived this way.  However, during the pain and suffering of the past six months, she took her “everyday, ordinary life–her sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and she placed it before God as an offering.  She embraced what God was doing for her” (Romans 12:1 and 2). 

Prayer

          Isaiah said, “But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again. They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired.”  Life is replaced with death.  Death is replaced by eternal life.

Prayer–Lord’s Prayer

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