How To Write A Memorable Eulogy — Example Memorial Service Included

The eulogy is one of the most important speeches one could deliver as it pays tribute to the meaning of a life in the presence of those mourning the loss. It is a solemn occasion as friends and family, often separated by hundreds of miles and many years, gather to pay a final tribute to a loved one. In most cases it is a celebratory time of a life well lived. Tragic situations can provide an opportunity to develop sympathy for the deceased or remember Man Sitting At Gravesitethe important lessons a life cut short. It is the final public reflection of the life that has passed and a means of providing comfort and closure for the survivors. We do disservice when we pull out a standard funeral service from a book of stock event speeches. A vague speech about death and remembrance is equally lacking. A eulogy should memorialize the end of life with an exclamation point, not a whimper.

Why A Good Eulogy Is Important

Preparing the eulogy or tribute

Gathering material on the deceased

Choose material that fits the narrative

Choose an organizational method

Organization types

Ending the eulogy

Concluding observations

Example Memorial Service

Reflection on a Friend’s Suicide

On November 3, 1998, a close friend drowning in personal problems took his life. He suffered silently from depression avoiding medical help or counseling for dealing with this dreadful condition.  With help he might have handled his problems more realistically instead of viewing the warped vision depression creates. Having struggled with depression myself over the years, I knew the black cloud that can enshroud even the child of God.

Suicide is a difficult issue for those left behind

People rarely discuss suicide so those left behind to suffer must often mourn alone and in confusion. Survivors repeatedly question themselves about what they should have said or noticed. Many are angry with the deceased for not giving them a chance to help, not reaching out to others, for leaving them with unanswered questions and bitter pain, and for not saying goodbye. Too many questions begin with, “If only I would have…” We must remember that one who attempts or commits suicide is not thinking rationally for they would not act on such illogical actions with a sane mind.

Finding a peaceful mind through Jesus

flowerswhiteIf you heart is filled with despair turn to the Great Physician, Jesus. When Jesus sailed to the region of the Gadarenes, in Galilee, a wild man living among the tombs met Him as He disembarked. The man, who tore apart many chains and shackles that could not restrain him, ran to Jesus and worshiped Him. As he worshiped, the unclean spirits, united in one as Legion, begged Jesus not to torment them. Jesus rebuked the spirits and commanded them to depart from the man. A multitude from the city came to Jesus and saw the man, once wild and uncontrollable, sitting in his right mind with Jesus.

Though demon possession is not a problem today, having faded during the early work of the apostles (the epistles do not warn of demon possession and Acts 19 is the last historical mention of possession), Jesus still can heal the troubled hearts and minds of men. Without Jesus, we will likely lose control and drift into despair. However, Jesus, through prayer and His word, can help us regain our senses.

Jesus implored the troubled to seek him for comfort and He would give them rest, Matthew 11:28-30. When the Satan, through the world, exercises the primary influence over our lives chaos, anxiety, and difficulties abound.

  • Chaos; because the world cannot give us wise answers for daily living but only conflicting philosophies and a disordered life.
  • Anxiety; for we cannot have “peace that passes understanding” without complete trust in God (“Casting your cares on Him for He cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7).
  • Difficulties; because those who do not rely on Christ or their brethren to help in difficult times are placing unnecessary burdens upon themselves and throwing away the most useful resources for dealing with troubles in this life (“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2).

Sometimes we put too much trust in our own power and strive for independence from God. As a result, we turn to worldly ways to solve spiritual problems and are doomed to fail.

Helping one another

In the shadow of natural disaster and personal tragedies, good people strive to help one another. In the Old West, neighbors would have “barn raisings” in which the community help one family build their barn. If the head of the family died, other families would take care of the survivors to help them get on their feet. Throughout history, people have always united to help ordinary families get through extraordinary difficulties. In times of great personal difficulty and despair we should allow others to help us, pray with us, and support us. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength to ask for help, James 5:16-20; Philippians 2:1-4.

Clinical depression, which lasts for a long time without any apparent reason is a medical issue about which one should talk with his or her doctor. Even here, God’s providence has allowed us to live in a world where doctors understand the medical issues surrounding such feelings and medications exist to help people cope with the chemical imbalances in the body. I know. I am a godly person but have needed medical assistance at times to handle the physical factors that influenced depression. We must be willing to reach out to someone for help. Someone does want to help. There is always the National Suicide Prevention Hotline available with caring volunteers ready to assist: 1-800-273-8255.

When my friend took his life in 1998 it was an election day. Since that day, I have mourned my friend and wished that I could have helped him not make this drastic decision. Yet that day he voted to die. As for me, I vote for life and no matter what disaster or despair may strike, I will still choose life, even if I have to ask my brethren to help me move the lever.

Learning Lessons From The Death of a Loved One

A thoughtful person will leave the funeral home with a prayer on the heart for those grieving and consideration of their own appointment with death. God put eternity in our hearts and when someone leaves this world and has no part in it, it should cause us to reflect on how we live. Ultimately, we will have to face our deeds on the day of judgment (Romans 2:6-10). Reflecting on our own mortality allows us to judge ourselves to see what we need to change before that final judgment.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4: It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

In our youth oriented, recreational, and hedonistic society, to say that it is better to go to the house of mourning (funeral) instead of the house of feasting (party) seems blasphemous. Our society is financially blessed and relatively painless health care is available that allows us to live longer than our ancestors. We do not have to travel by foot or animal for long periods just to leave the area; modern transportation can take us anywhere in the world in a short period of time. We do not have to chop wood for a fire and kill or grow food in order to eat. We do not even have to wash dishes—we just put them in the dishwasher and let it do the rest. An hour of cooking has been reduced to five minutes in the microwave. Women do not have to spend hours at a creek washing clothes but can put them in the washing machine and go about their business.

Despite all of these conveniences and blessings, our country has a high rate of depression and suicide. Why are people seeking escape in alcohol and drugs when the life they wish to escape is infinitely easier and more luxurious than the life their ancestors lived? Why do we have so many labor saving devices yet no time to spend with our families, the work of the church, and brood about our lack of time? Perhaps we have tried to live too long in the house of feasting and our gluttony is making us sick.

Consider the differences between the house of mourning and the house of feasting

Subject House of Mourning House of Feasting
Thoughts Sober: reflecting on the end of life and the importance of living today, Eccl 7:2 Vain and futile thoughts: great attention to foolish things
Compassion Great concern for those who are suffering Cannot be burdened with sadness and people who are depressed bring down the party.
Help Can find many to help bear burdens. Work together to take care of family and friends No one works. Ease is sought
Forgiveness There is much forgiveness, apologies over the casket, regret that one did not say “I’m sorry” in life, and sometimes reconciliation with the living False fronts conceal malice and envy. People will put others down to lift themselves
Materialism Material things are put in proper perspective (passing), Eccl 2:17-21 Material things are exalted and cherished
Future Sober reflection about one’s future, Eccl 12:13-14) No thought of the future. “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
Mortality Face to face with mortality, Eccl 9:2-6 Feeling of immortality. Some die during a drunken binge or drug overdose. Feel invulnerable
Vanity of Life Cold reality that life is vain, Eccl 1:12-14 Think that life is one big party

The house of mourning shatters our illusions. In the house of mourning we realize that the world will be destroyed. We realize that all will die and be eventually be forgotten by future generations. One hundred years from now no one will care who we were or what we did. This reality should remind us not to compromise our values for passing popularity or acceptance. Though we will be forgotten by man, God will remember us and what we have done.

We are made better for the time of reflection. The house of mourning means facing the realities of life. The house of feasting means escaping the realities of life. One house will make us ready for judgment; one house will put us in danger in judgment.

The house of mourning will lead to more satisfying joy than the house of feasting. The goal at the house of feasting is a good time, yet the most joyful, content life begins at the house of mourning. Although we get perspective at the house of mourning, it is not a permanent residence, we cannot live in sorrow and mourning. The solemn thoughts we have when we visit the house of mourning should enrich our lives. Our encounter with death should help us make the most of every day and every relationship and thus get more satisfaction from life.

Those in the house of feasting are eventually bored and dissatisfied with life because their life has no substance. There is no true happiness in the house of feasting, just entertainment.

Our eternal home will be in a house of mourning or a house of feasting. The Bible pictures heaven as a place of eternal bliss and joy, rejoicing with God. Pain and sorrow are removed. Hell is a place of mourning and sorrow, pain and grief for ignoring God’s word and failing to worship Him. If we learn the lessons from the house of mourning while on earth, we can live in God’s house of feasting for an eternity.

12 Ways To Honor A Deceased Loved One

In the articles on how our deceased loved ones do not watch over us and do not become angels, I noted that our attempts to honor our loved ones must not dishonor God and take glory and credit that belongs to Him alone. Since those who have died no longer have anything to do with this world, how can we honor their memory?
  1. Sympathy Card to Loved Ones – You can send a sympathy card to the family or special friends of the deceased so they will know you are thinking about them. You may want to include a single positive memory of the deceased or lessons you learned from them. It is comforting to know that your loved one had a positive impact on the lives of others. Don’t talk about how you used to party or get into trouble together as this may not have been positive in the eyes of the grieving.
  2. Provide Help During The Transition – If the deceased was a parent, the surviving parent might appreciate help with the children while they take care of some of the financial and legal affairs that accompany someone’s death. Months after the death, offer to take the kids to the park or out to eat. If a husband died, help with yard work or household repairs might be needed. If a wife died, help with household chores, laundry, and meals would be greatly appreciated. This help, especially when offered long after the funeral is appreciated.
  3. Charitable Donation – If a person died of a disease, sometimes the family will ask that “in lieu of flowers” (instead of spending money on flowers for the funeral) make a donation to an organization that raises funds to fight the disease and help its victims. Even if the family does not request this, you can make the donation and send a sympathy card to let them know how much you gave to what organization in memory of the deceased.
  4. Memorial Donation – Similar to the charitable donation, you can donate money to a general scholarship fund or provide funds for a project in the name of the deceased. On a couple of occasions I have donated money to the Florida College library and asked them to purchase materials in honor of the deceased. They will usually tell you what was purchased and put a special label in the front of the book with the name of the person you want to honor. Several friends purchased materials for a church classroom in honor a preacher’s wife who was very active in teaching young people. Occasionally a special fund is set up to help provide an education for the children of the deceased or otherwise honor their memory.
  5. Record your memories – We think our memories will be crystal clear forever but scientific studies demonstrate that they blend with other memories and sometimes are distorted or the details forgotten. When the memories of the loved one are fresh, record special times together, the type of things you talked about, private jokes, lessons learned, and your feelings about their absence. This will not only preserve memories that you can revisit often, it will help you come to grips with your loss.
  6. Scrapbook – Put together a scrapbook of pictures, mementos, the newspaper obituary, and written reminisces of what you did with that person and what you learned from them. If the departed loved one has small children, you can share these things with them when they grow up and will have questions about who their loved one was and their impact on the lives of others. I love to hear people talk about good memories of my father especially since he died when I was 5 years old.
  7. Create a Collection – If the departed was creative, you can collect their drawings, writing, poems, music, photos, or photos of large creations (sculptures, multi-media work) and create a memorial work. Publish the collection on a web site or blog, create a memory book through a print-on-demand service (or copy store like Office Depot or Fedex/Kinkos), or have a show to demonstrate the work and share stories. I knew some friends of a young boy who was a talented cartoonist who collected his drawings and published a book after his death and it was a welcome tribute and provided comfort to his friends and family.
  8. Memorial Web Page– – A Google search for “memorial web pages (or sites)” yields results for companies that provide web space to share media and record the life story of the deceased. Immediate family members can “memorialize” a Facebook account to preserve it and restrict access to friends only (see
  9. Memorial Gathering– Host a party or dinner to honor and reminisce about the departed loved one. This does not have to be immediately surrounding the funeral, in fact, it might be good to wait a couple of weeks to allow the initial shock and pain to be felt and the grieving to start. Write and/or record stories and scan or collect pictures to share with the group (maybe on a memorial web page). An important part of the gathering will be to comfort one another and remember the good times spent with the deceased. Some ideas from my article on Writing a Memorable Eulogy would be helpful.
  10. Finish Their Work – Was there a big project they were working on at the time of their death? Organize a group to finish the work. If they were involved with a charity or perhaps there was a project they were doing for the family, a lot of friends and family coming together to finish the project in their memory is a good way to accomplish something that was obviously important to the departed. The family of Michael Mason published his autobiography of his challenging life with MD. The book moves the reader from laughter to tears and provides great insight into the physical and emotional challenges of living with Muscular Distrophy. I highly recommend that you download and read his book In Body Only.
  11. Remembering Special Days – Birthdays, holidays, and the anniversary of the death will be difficult for the immediate family in the first few years especially. Mark on your calendar to call, visit, or send a card to the loved ones to remind them that you are thinking of them, praying for them, and you are remembering the loved one as well. After the initial frenzy surrounding the funeral, the immediate family can sometimes feel lonely or isolated and may wonder if everyone has forgotten the deceased. Reminding them of your love for them and the departed is comforting.
  12. Use Your Comfort to Comfort Others – As you move through the grieving process, it is often helpful to record your memories of the deceased and the spiritual lessons you are learning in the process. As you understand and accept God’s care and comfort, share that comfort with others who are grieving through conversations and the written word. My friend David Tant wrote an article several years ago about his conversations with me and my wife and others as he was grieving the loss of his father and settling his father’s financial affairs. His article has provided comfort on many occasions when I was grieving. The article is called “When Do The Tears Stop” and can be found here:

Do We Become Angels When We Die?

Many years ago I attended the very sad funeral of a young Christian couple who lost twins at birth. I was very surprised when I read the poem and message distributed at the funeral that described the parent’s joy knowing that their children were now guardian angels watching over the couple. Since that time I have known of other Christians who said that their grandparents were now angels watching over them. A very quick reading of the scriptures reveals that we do not become angels when we die.

I am not surprised that many people in the world believe that dead loved ones become angels to watch over them. The concept has been popularized in movies, television shows, songs, and books. Many years ago, studies of angels were very popular but often misguided as little has been revealed about angels but the things that are revealed contradicted much of this popular teaching. However, the foundation of a Christian’s beliefs is what is written in God’s word, not popular literature.

The Bible teaches that angels are created beings different from man, Psalm 148:2-5. In describing the superiority of Christ above the angels, the Hebrew writer describes angels as “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) In addition, the mission of Christ was not to serve the angels, especially those who fell, but to serve men, Hebrews 2:16. Christ will confess the name of the faithful before the angels, Revelation 3:5. Angels are special beings, different from men and when we die we do not become angels (or demons either). Likewise, angels do not become people.

To speak of our deceased loved ones as angels watching over us is entirely without scriptural authority and the Bible is the only authority on the spiritual realm. As a previous article noted, our dead loved ones do not watch over us as non-angelic beings either. They no longer have a part in this world.

Since you will not be able to help those you love after you die, either as an angel or spiritual being, do everything you can today to express your love and concern for them and especially to share the gospel with those who are lost. Once we have left this earth, we may be greatly concerned about the spiritual situation of people here on this earth but will be powerless to do anything to help them, Luke 16:19-31.

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