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Many times I have been asked why we do certain things in the funeral or memorial process.
While some parts of the funeral ritual may be seen as just tradition or “We have always just
done it that way”, there are some powerful reasons why we do what we do.
The eulogy is one those rituals that many question. Some will say in slight jest that this is
where we just tell lies about how good the person was, forgetting about their many faults.
Others have asked how is it possible to sum up such an impressive life in just a short 5
minute speech or written account.
Those who are tasked with delivering or writing a eulogy may find themselves overwhelmed.
I would like to share a portion of an article I recently read about Eulogies and how they can in
one speech inspire, unite and comfort us.
The following are examples from an article written by Jacob Terranova:
Steve Irwin’s Eulogy: When Steve Irwin passed away in 2006, his daughter Bindi delivered
the eulogy. It was short, simple, sweet—and very moving. Bindi spoke to the world about her
father’s important work in preserving wildlife and what her father meant to her personally. “My
daddy was my hero,” she said.
Rosa Park’s Eulogy: The eulogy for Rosa Parks was delivered by Oprah Winfrey. Oprah’s
stirring speech told of how she grew up idolizing Rosa Parks for her unwavering courage
during the Civil Rights era. When looking back on Rosa Park’s life, Oprah said, “here was this
petite, almost delicate lady who was the personification of grace and goodness.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Eulogy: The speech was given by Robert Kennedy shortly after the
assassination of MLK. RFK gave the speech out of a flatbed truck in Indianapolis and the
speech wasn’t planned or even recommended. The police and staff warned RFK that there
might be violence after hearing about the assassination and couldn’t provide adequate
protection. But after RFK delivered the news of MLK’s death, the crowd in Indianapolis was
the only city where riots didn’t occur that night.
Gandhi’s Eulogy: Gandhi’s life was ended by violence, the very thing he advocated against.
After his assassination, his eulogy was delivered by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister
of India. It was delivered without any planning and inspired India to come together in the face
of tragedy. Nehru explained the importance Gandhi had in shaping the country, “for the light
that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for
these many years will illumine this country for many more years.”
Challenger Crew Eulogy: When the space shuttle crashed in 1986, Ronald Reagan canceled
the previously planned State of the Union address in order to address the nation about the
death of the seven crew members. The eulogy talked about the courage of the crew members
and the noble efforts of everyone working in NASA and space exploration. Reagan’s address
was able to comfort the nation, as well as inspire. “The future doesn’t belong to the
fainthearted; it belongs to the brave!”