Austin's Blog

 

How to prepare a eulogy

August 30th, 2019    Author:

A eulogy is a funeral speech prepared and given by someone close to the deceased, about their life, their character and their achievements. The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “a speech, piece of writing, poem, etc. containing great praise…”.

In essence, a eulogy is a celebration of someone’s life. It’s a chance for everyone at the funeral to reflect, remember and even learn something new about the person they have all gathered together to pay their respects to.

There’s a great quote by Doctor Seuss; “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” A eulogy is one of the first times after someone passes that all of these great memories can be retold; the comfort this can bring, and the connections it makes between people in the room, is huge.

While it’s an honour to be asked to give a eulogy at someone’s funeral, it can feel daunting and there’s commonly a fear of having to ‘get it right’. Don’t feel pressured into it, or guilty if you decide to say no.

 

What does a eulogy look like?

Fortunately, there are no real set rules. Just like every life is unique, so is every eulogy. You don’t need to be an amazing writer – a eulogy should come from the heart.

A eulogy can be structured in various ways. It could be:

  • Chronologically – in date order from where they were born, their school life, working life and retirement
  • By characteristics – for instance, you may have four or five characteristics of the person that you wish to talk through with related anecdotes
  • In a certain theme – for example, if the person was a dedicated musician, the eulogy might focus around this and how it impacted the different areas of their life

It’s important to think about both your audience and the deceased. How will the audience feel and what will they want to hear? When was the deceased at their happiest and when did they face their biggest challenges – what would they want people to remember?

However you decide to approach it, you want to create a picture in people’s minds during the eulogy, just like how Kevin Whately talks about fellow actor John Thaw after he passed away; “In between takes, he was like an Irish storyteller in a bar – he wouldn’t tell jokes, just stories and you would find yourself rolling around and crying with laughter.”

 

How to start writing a eulogy

Think about the type of person they were, the times you spent together and what tone your eulogy will take.

  • Do your research – talk to the family and other close friends for stories, or any details of the person’s life that you are not sure of.
  • Write down the key points of their life, plus key words that you feel reflected their personality.
  • Gather together any anecdotes you want to highlight.
  • Once all this is in place, just start writing! Don’t worry about the beginning and end to start with.
  • Make sure you start early enough to give time for editing a few drafts and to ask people for feedback.
  • Find out who else is speaking at the funeral so that you don’t repeat any considerable chunks of information.
  • If you’re still finding it hard to get going, work through a checklist:
    • Their birthplace
    • Their family
    • Their partner
    • Any nicknames, quotes, things they’d typically say
    • Education
    • Work
    • Community or sporting achievements
    • Hobbies, clubs or memberships
    • Favourite poems, songs or quotes

 

How to practice reading the eulogy

A eulogy should be around 3-5 minutes long when read aloud; but certainly no more than 10. A 5 minute speech is equivalent to around 750 words, so about the same length as this blog post.

Read it out loud and practise a few times. Performing a eulogy is public speaking, something which plenty of people struggle with, so it’s ok for it not to be perfect.

Things can sound very different when you read them aloud, compared to in your head, so change anything that sounds awkward or not right when you practise. If you can, write the main points on a card and work off of that, so that you’re not reliant on reading it word for word.

On the day, stand still and calm while you speak; it’s easy to fidget when we’re nervous! Don’t worry about emotion – if you feel overwhelmed at any point, just give yourself some time and then continue. Above all, try and speak slowly. People want to hear what you have to say.

 

Finally…

Remember, a eulogy should come from the heart, so don’t get too worried about the finer details.

“Eulogies never talk about what was on your resume. Be remembered for how you made people feel and your passions”.

Arianna Huffington, Founder of Huffington Post.

Claire Receives Outstanding Contribution to Charity Award

June 17th, 2019    Author:

Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards 2019 “Outstanding Contribution to Charity” Award

Claire Austin receiving her Award

On Thursday evening (13th June 2019), I had the great pleasure of attending the Inspiring Hertfordshire Awards held at St Albans Cathedral. Austin’s Funeral Service has been involved as a sponsor and a judge for these  awards for several years.

This particular evening, however, I had not anticipated being the recipient of an award.  It was a great surprise and privilege to receive the chamber’s award for Outstanding Contribution to Charity and to be presented with this accolade by the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss CBE. I have undertaken a number of challenges to raise funds for local causes, including running the London Marathon, building a dam in Vietnam, a skydive and having my head shaved. In my role as Managing Director of Austin’s Funeral Service and Harwood Park Crematorium, I have become fully aware of the needs of our local community. My endeavours have provided funds to assist many local charities and I have found many of these activities personally rewarding. To be recognised, in this way, by the Hertfordshire Chamber is a great  honour.

 

A Guide to Winter Funerals

November 13th, 2018    Author:

With the weather turning chilly, we’ve put together some tips on dealing with a winter funeral

WHAT TO WEAR
Keeping warm will be a key factor in your choice of outfit as you’re likely to be spending time outside viewing the flowers and chatting to mourners after the service. You might want to layer your outfit with a cardigan or jumper that can be removed if you get too hot. Likewise, a thick coat will keep out the chill and be easy to slip off when you’re inside. If you particularly feel the cold you may want to wear some thermal underwear. And don’t forget winter accessories such as hats, scarves and gloves – as well as keeping you toasty, these can be used to add a little bit of colour, if that’s what your loved one would have liked.

CHOOSING THE FLOWERS
There are plenty of winter flowers available for wreaths and floral arrangements. For something different, you could include pine cones, fresh spruce and eucalyptus, or perhaps go with a white and red theme for a December funeral. If, on the other hand, you want a more warm and colourful arrangement, think about including tropical flowers, many of which are available all year round. If you need help with your floral display, our florist (Daizy flowers] will be pleased to advise you.

HANDY HELPERS
Tissues are always useful to have to hand – but with winter sniffles you might want to take an extra supply, for you as well as other mourners. If it’s raining take an umbrella plus a spare one just in case yours breaks or you lose it. When the weather’s really cold, you could take a hand warmer, which will easily fit into a pocket or handbag. And finally, remember that wintery weather can cause problems driving so have de-icer on standby and a spade in your car in case of heavy snow.

POST-FUNERAL RECEPTION
A cold buffet is usually the simplest way to cater for mourners after a funeral, but when the weather is cold you may want to offer a hot option such as soup or stew. You could use your loved one’s own recipe it and personalise it with a menu card, like ‘Nan’s hearty vegetable soup’. As well as tea and coffee, you could offer a fun option such as hot chocolate with marshmallows and sprinkles.

* Austin’s are here to help you with funeral planning. Please get in touch with us on 01438 316623.

The rise of ‘fun’ funerals

August 10th, 2018    Author:

Once upon a time, when you attended a funeral it would be a sombre occasion with mourners dressed in black. Today, many funeral services are conducted as a celebration, with loved ones choosing a fun theme to represent the deceased’s personality or interests.

In America, one funeral home has become known for its themed funerals – including a
Christmas-themed service complete with snow, elves and reindeers and a BBQ-inspired after party with live pigs and a barbeque sauce fountain. And in the UK, so-called ‘fun funerals’ are becoming increasingly popular, too. According to the National Association of Funeral Directors, their members have arranged all sorts of themed services involving classic cars, railways and the Wild West.

Superheroes are a popular choice. For one funeral service for a Spider-Man fan, the coffin was covered in Spider-Man stickers. Undertakers often get into the spirit of the theme as well, with one dressing as Darth Vader to lead the cortege for a Star Wars style funeral.

At the funeral of a music festival fan, the Glastonbury-inspired service saw all the mourners dressed in wellington boots while the coffin arrived on a customised camper van. For a football fan, mourners wore football shirts and the service finished with a final whistle. There’s even been a funeral service where everyone wore a onesie – the favourite outfit of the deceased.

A ‘fun’ funeral service isn’t for everyone. Recently TV presenter Colin Brazier asked mourners at his wife’s funeral to keep with tradition and wear black https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44923744, but in one study it was found that 66% of people believed funerals were becoming more of a celebration of a deceased person’s life, with a third saying that when it came to their own funeral they’d like it to be a party.

You might not want elves and sauce fountains at your loved one’s funeral but you may like to personalise the service to reflect their fun side. Whatever you decide, we’re here to help and support you.

* To talk to us about planning a funeral or cremation, please contact Austin’s on 01438 316623.