What is a living eulogy?

outstretched hand offering a bouquet of wild flowers

A living eulogy marks our appreciation or gratitude for someone who has powerfully and positively contributed to the quality of our lives. As its title implies, it's a form of tribute speech celebrating a living person.

The decision to give one usually arises from one of these three circumstances:

  1. the person you want to honor is nearing the end of their life and you want them to know how much they've meant to you before they pass away
  2. your feelings of gratitude and love are so great for someone very dear in your life (your mother, father, a friend ...) you want to express them in a special speech
  3. you have been asked to write your own eulogy

A living eulogy as self-development

This exercise, first popularized by American business management and self-development guru Stephen Covey in his best selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as part of instilling Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind, is sometimes set as a personal development tool. It helps us focus on the positive qualities and actions we want to be remembered for.

To make the experience more vivid or real, people are asked to imagine themselves at their own funeral listening to the speeches.

* What would people say?
* What would be the dominant themes?
* Did we make the world a better place?
* Did we use our gifts to help others?
* Face our challenges with integrity and courage?

The task offers the opportunity to reflect on, challenge and change the restrictive or negative aspects of our characters and lives. It can clarify and function as a valuable road map, helping us consciously choose the paths leading to, supporting and reinforcing, the best of ourselves. 

Why give living eulogies?

 hand outstretched offering a bunch of wild flowers

Let's leave aside preparing a eulogy for yourself as a self-development tool and focus on reasons for giving one to someone else.

How many times have you regretted NOT telling or showing a person how much they meant to you?

Perhaps you felt too shy and awkward. Perhaps the moment never naturally arose or maybe you felt the person you wanted to share your feelings with wasn't open to receiving them. And then they're gone, sometimes out of your life forever. Now instead of telling them directly, you tell the people who have gathered at their funeral.

In contrast to a more typical funeral speech, a living eulogy celebrates our special people while they are with us. It is a powerful, life-affirming gift.

Preparing a living eulogy

A Living Eulogy as part of a pre-funeral celebration

Sometimes living eulogies are given to those who are terminally ill. It lets them know just how much they were loved and admired before they die.

This can be a wonderful, uplifting celebration for everybody BUT it needs full and sensitive discussion beforehand with everyone concerned  including the person you're giving the tribute to.

If you'd like advice visit 'The Light Beyond', Lucie Storr's website on grief, dying and death related matters. There is an excellent forum and expert guidance available. Ask your questions there.

Decide on an appropriate form after you have considered whom you are giving it to. What will they appreciate?

Now balance that decision against what you are able to give. For example, will you sing a song, read a poem, or give a speech? Perhaps you can combine all of these elements?

Decide whether the occasion is public or private. Do you want to share your praise in front of others?  If so, will it form part of a celebration like a birthday or an anniversary?

What to include

Include anything and everything sincerely and honestly reflecting the love, admiration, appreciation and gratitude you hold for the person you want to honor.

A useful guideline is that whatever you say, or do, must genuinely come from your heart.

If you are giving the speech as part of public ceremony (birthday party, anniversary celebration or something similar) the step by step guidelines on my how to write a eulogy page will help. Use them to ensure you get all aspects of your speech: content, length of speech and presentation, fully prepared.

Read a sample speech

Sometimes reading what other people have written sparks our creativity into action.

Browse a growing, wonderful and diverse collection of sample eulogies submitted by site visitors including a couple I wrote myself for my sister and my neighbor. There's also this tribute speech for my mother.

In summary:

a fist full of wild flowers

Your living eulogy is an acknowledgement and recognition of the gifts received from someone whom love.

Let's not wait until they're gone from our lives to show our gratitude.

Now, who is on my list for today?
There's my husband...






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