Eulogies are often given as part of funerals at funeral homes in Chesterfield Township, MI. If you watched the funeral of Aretha Franklin, for example, in August of 2018, you saw so many people eulogizing the Queen of Soul that the funeral lasted more than eight hours (and two and a half hours past the original schedule for the service).
However, at funerals for ordinary people, you will probably hear two or three eulogies presented by close friends or family members of the deceased to honor the deceased and to offer comfort to the mourners who are present, including the bereaved family. The history of funeral eulogies is ancient and storied.
The word eulogy comes down to us from the Greek word eulogia, which literally means “true words of praise.” It should come as no surprise then that the practice of giving eulogies began in Greece.
Eulogies, in the strictest sense, can be given for someone who is still alive. This type of eulogy is presented on very special occasions, like birthdays or significant anniversaries. However, today, most eulogies are given during funeral services to honor someone who has died.
The modern practice of giving a eulogy for only those loved ones who have died dates back to the Renaissance. The middle Latin term for these words of praise and honor for a loved one is eulogium, which, in modern English, has become the word eulogy.
Memorable eulogies do several things. They provide inspiration to the living. They provide comfort to the grieving family and to other mourners. They create a close connection to the deceased loved one for everyone, whether they knew the loved one or not, who hears (or reads) the eulogy.
Some of the most famous eulogies ever given do just that.
For example, when civil rights icon Rosa Parks died in 2005, Oprah Winfrey eulogized her, in part, with these words:
“God uses good people to do great things…
I grew up in the South, and Rosa Parks was a hero to me long before I recognized and understood the power and impact that her life embodied. I remember my father telling me about this colored woman who had refused to give up her seat. And in my child’s mind, I thought, “She must be really big.” I thought she must be at least a hundred feet tall. I imagined her being stalwart and strong and carrying a shield to hold back the white folks. And then I grew up and had the esteemed honor of meeting her. And wasn’t that a surprise. Here was this petite, almost delicate lady who was the personification of grace and goodness…
And after our first meeting I realized that God uses good people to do great things. And I’m here today to say a final thank you, Sister Rosa, for being a great woman who used your life to serve, to serve us all…”
Winfrey’s words about Rosa Parks noted what her contributions were to people far beyond her immediate reach. They honored Parks’ character and determination. They remembered her lasting impact on the world and on individual lives throughout her time her on earth.
When you’re asked to give a eulogy for a close friend or family member, you have the unique privilege to remember and honor the deceased loved one. Your words should highlight their contributions to others, the strength of their character, and the impact they had on others during their life.
Not only will you create a connection for others, but you will provide great comfort to the bereaved family.