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

God Gives Me Songs in the Night

In the still of the night loneliness and sorrow can envelop us. But God gives Christians songs in the night when they seek him in their sorrow. The perspective of Psalm 42 is someone in distress. As is often the case in the Psalms, the writer trusted in God’s deliverance though he had to endure suffering at the hands of his enemies.

Though he was in sorrow, he wanted to enjoy pleasant times with the Lord again. He fondly remembered how he led the multitude in praise as they made pilgrimages to God’s house. He eagerly desired God’s company as a deer longs for the water. After a big meal neither food nor drink are appealing. When one is feeling self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and at ease he does not hunger and thirst for God—he does not need the Father. However, when one is suffering, broken down, and weary, he acutely feels the pain for God’s presence and comfort.

The psalmist did not thirst for God’s word but for God Himself. It appears that his enemies had hindered his ability to come to the house of God and worship. Just as a young couple eagerly desires one another’s company and seeks every opportunity to be with one another, so one who truly enjoys fellowship with God will hunger for opportunities to join with Him in prayer, study and worship. Though he was suffering, he could still see the kindness of God in the daytime and sing songs as darkness enveloped him in the night.

Think about this comforting theme: God gives us songs during dark times. The phrase “songs in the night” appears a few times in scriptures and indicates confidence in God in the middle of dark times.

  • Job 35:9-10 – Job’s friend, Elihu, told of the confidence of the oppressed who cry to God and receive songs in the night
  • Psalm 77:1-6 – The psalmist reflected on a time when God answered him though he had to suffer some sleepless nights; yet even in his despair he had songs in the night.
  • Psalm 149:5 encourages saints to sing loudly on their beds

When we are enduring trials or sorrows, we often lie on our beds staring at the ceiling and praying for help and answers. Though despair has driven sleep from us, God is ever near. It is often in the silence and loneliness of the darkness that we realize how much we depend upon God and that in suffering we see Him more clearly. John Michael Talbot said, “I can look back at my darkest periods and realize that these were the times when the Lord was holding me closest. But I couldn’t see his face because my face was in his breast—crying.”

In the darkness of pain and despair we can find a song of love, praise, and comfort from our God. Acts 16:20-25 records how Paul and Silas were severely beaten and cast into the depths of a Phillippian jail. It would be understandable if Paul and Silas moaned about their beating, complained to God, and wallowed in self-pity yet late into the night they were singing praises to God. They were following the example of Jesus who, before spending the night in agonizing prayer and going to the cross, sang a hymn with His apostles, Matthew 26:30.

Before the Civil War, as slaves labored in the field and endured beatings, separated families, poor living conditions, and all of the indignities associated with oppression they sang spiritual songs of praise and deliverance. It is a challenge to sing songs in the night when you are enveloped with despair and feel that your suffering is unfair.

How can we sing songs in the night?
First, we must trust in God’s love and care. God as our shepherd can comfort us even when the suffering is the valley of the shadow of death, Psalm 23:4. We can have confidence in His comforting presence for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.

We must seek strength from God. Paul urged us to be strong in God’s power, Ephesians 6:10. We must not depend so much on our own strength. This is also when we need to allow others to help us bear our burdens. God is intimately concerned about us, Luke 12:6-7, and will not keep His strength from us if we request it.

We must also realize that there will be times of joy and sorrow. Times of sorrow help us appreciate the good times. The timeless wisdom of Solomon reminds us to enjoy the good days because the dark days will come, Ecclesiastes 7:14. He further reminds us, in Ecclesiastes 11:3-8, that some things are out of our control and some things are within our control. We must do what we can do and leave the rest to the wisdom of God.

God can only give His children songs in the night. Those who have rejected Him or Christians who are rebelling against Him will only have anxiety and worry for they know that God will punish them if they do not repent. To sing songs in the night, one must have peace and true peace can only come through obedience to God.

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.

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.

Do Not Ask The Dead To Help The Living

Dealing with the loss of a close relative or friend is one of the most traumatic things someone can endure. We sense the loss of their physical presence and the ability to talk with them frequently. If they were a source of encouragement and guidance their absence will make us yearn for their leadership. In desperate situations, some people have wasted money on mediums and others who claim to communicate with the dead in order to receive some final message or to maintain contact. I fear that many Christians are practicing this in a more subtle way and are, without realizing it, taking glory from God.

Some eastern religions have a custom of lighting candles and preparing food to appease dead loved ones. They will pray to their loved ones for help in their life. Christians have long answered this with an exhortation that such people pray to God who can truly help them. However, I am witnessing more and more Christians asking dead relatives and friends to intervene in the matters of this world. I have heard Christians attributing the strength they had to overcome a certain obstacle to a departed loved one—not that the loved one was an inspiration to them or something they were taught helped them but that the loved one was actively helping them. They may even pray for them to intervene with God on their behalf.

We must acknowledge that nowhere in Scriptures are we commanded or encouraged to ask dead loved ones to intervene with God on our behalf since Jesus is our intercessor  and He “ever lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25). Nor do we find authority to ask them to watch over us daily or during a special time of need. Again, it is Jesus who can sympathize with our weaknesses and is the only at the throne of God’s grace that we can “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:25).” We should not make requests to departed loved ones, Bible characters, or other faithful brethren that alone should be addressed to the Father through Jesus.

Since this is the case, if we go to our deceased loved one–or anyone who lived on this earth–to ask help in a time of need, we are not only doing it without authority but it is an unintended insult to God who really can assist us. In the Old Testament God considered it an insult! Isaiah 8:19 says, “… should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?”

Those who are deceased have no power at all in this world. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31, the rich man was concerned about the spiritual welfare of his brothers. However, he could do nothing about them (v.26 says it was impossible for him to return). He could not teach them or lead them to truth. Even Lazarus was not permitted to return to help them. The clear teaching of this passage is that we sever our relationship with the world at death. Ecclesiastes 9:6 says we no longer share in the things of this world. Any person who lived on this earth does not have the power of God upon their death, do not have his divine knowledge, and no matter how much they loved us, God loves us infinitely more!

I do not want to be insensitive and and know firsthand the depth of pain one feels when grieving a loved one, but to say that the dearly departed are working among us reflects an ignorance of God’s word on this subject and takes much deserved glory away from God. We cannot honor our departed loved one by dishonoring God.

Do our departed loved ones become angels when they die? The next article will address this.

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