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Famous eulogies and how to write a funeral eulogy

Posted on 11 November 2015

The secrets of perfectly pitched eulogies

“Smile though your heart is aching.” This is the line Brooke Shields used at the end of her emotional and public funeral eulogy for her friend Michael Jackson.

Today, the idea of smiling and celebrating a life is a popular alternative to the traditional funeral. However, regardless of the nature of the service, eulogies remain at the heart of any funeral or memorial.

So what is a funeral eulogy and what makes a good one?

In a nutshell a funeral eulogy is a personal tribute that helps everyone reflect on the qualities, beliefs and foibles of the person they knew and loved.

The tone and style of a eulogy will very much depend on the person we’re remembering. Eulogies can be emotional, tearful, inspiring, downright hilarious - or all of these things.

Here are some of our favourite eulogies from the last few years. Some are celebrity tributes; others are far more personal affairs. Might be a good idea to have a box of tissues to hand…

Funeral eulogy for a famous friend

Brooke Shields delivered a very emotional tribute to her friend Michael Jackson. This very public, but heartfelt funeral eulogy looked back over their childhood and the funny moments they shared away from the limelight. Take a look here.

A satirical eulogy for mother

Eulogies don’t always have to touch on typical happy memories. In this funeral eulogy a daughter talks about her mother’s dislike of technology with touching and humorous effect. Through this laughter she perfectly demonstrates the real love she clearly had for her mother.

A funeral eulogy about the private man

The funeral eulogy for Steve Jobs was delivered by his sister, Monica Simpson. Paying tribute to such a high profile character can’t have been easy, but she chose to highlight some of her brother’s lesser known qualities as a family man and his defining moments, including his last words: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow”.

Eulogies can be honest

If we’re being totally honest about our loved ones, the picture we’d paint in their funeral eulogy wouldn’t be totally rosy. After all, imperfections make people who they are.

In this funeral eulogy, a woman talks about her husband in terms of his ‘sounds’, including the ones that came from his behind. After raising much laughter, she finishes with the touching line “to my beautiful children, I hope one day you find yourselves life partners who are as imperfect as your father was to me”.

Eulogies can even be hilariously shocking

If you’re talking about a character as shocking as Graham Chapman is seems only right that his funeral eulogy would follow suit. In his two minute tribute, John Cleese swore and told his audience: “The reason I feel I should say this is he would never forgive me if I didn’t. If I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf.” If you’re not easily shocked, take a look.

Writing a funeral eulogy - where to start

Writing a eulogy can feel like a big responsibility. Making sure your words pay true and proper tribute to a special person is the ultimate goal, but it can be tricky to know where to start. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be daunting.

Here are five tips to help you:

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect
    Far from it. A funeral eulogy should come from the heart, so it doesn’t have to be a perfectly written speech (PDF 0.076MB). And if it doesn’t go to plan, remember no one will judge you. Standing up and speaking at a funeral is a noble act in itself.
  2. It doesn’t have to be long
    John Cleese did his tribute in two minutes. A couple of poignant stories and an emotional finale is often all it takes.
  3. Think collage, not chronology
    Rather than a life story, it helps to think of a funeral eulogy as a series of anecdotes that highlight the qualities, values and beliefs of the person.
  4. Be honest
    True, eulogies shouldn’t focus too much on negative qualities, but the odd ‘imperfection’ or little thing that drove you mad can be heartwarming. It’s likely that others will smile and remember them with you.
  5. Final words
    Wrapping up a funeral eulogy is no mean feat. As a suggestion, ending on a forward-looking note often works well. For example, you could simply ask your audience to go on telling the stories you’ve told and more of their own, so you can all keep precious memories of the person alive.

If you have thoughts on how you’d like to be remembered, you can add these to your Will. If you don’t already have a Will, download our Will Writing Guide (PDF 0.071MB) for information on how to get started.

Or if you need help planning a funeral download our Funeral Planning Guide.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50 life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, pet insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd. Golden Charter Ltd are not required to be authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority in relation to funeral plans but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

If you choose to pay for your funeral in one go, with a single payment, you will have a contract with Golden Charter. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

If you choose to pay for your funeral with a life insurance policy, the policy will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

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Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

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SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

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