Writing and delivering the a fitting eulogy for your dad is a deeply personal and extremely difficult thing to do.
For anyone struggling with this unenviable task, my general advice is always this - keep it personal and make it your own.
Keep it personal
Your eulogy should speak about your dad from your experience. It should be your memories and you should speak from your heart: If it’s meaningful to you, it will resonate with others.
Make it Your Own
There is just no “right” way write a eulogy for your father. So have the courage to do it in any way that feels right for you. Don’t be afraid to ‘break the rules’... because there are no rules! Just do it your way and make it your own.
If you find yourself faced with the heartbreaking task of eulogising your father and you’re feeling at a loss for what to say, you might find the following suggestions and example eulogies and helpful…
Most of us would have no trouble going on and on about our Dad’s outstanding qualities but time is limited. At best, if you are the only speaker, you will have between 6 - 10 minutes to deliver your eulogy. If there are multiple speakers you may have as little as 2 minutes.
All the best Eulogies I’ve heard have focused on capturing the essence of who someone was. So, try and avoid writing a long list of your Dad’s achievements. Lists of facts may be accurate but they are very cold and impersonal. Instead, focus on memories that speak to his character and help tell his story:
- What is the first thing you think of when thinking about your father?
- What is your strongest memory of him?
- What words come to mind when you try to describe him?
- How did your dad make you feel?
- What was your dad’s role in your upbringing?
- How did your dad show his love for you?
- What made your dad laugh?
- What were his best qualities?
- What will you miss most now that he is gone?
Also, think about the peripheral things you associate with your father:
- What music reminds you of your dad?
- What movies or television shows did he love or hate
- What foods, sounds, and smells remind you of him?
Questions like these will help trigger many valuable memories for your eulogy. If you can, though, try to focus the bulk of your eulogy on just one or two areas. Your points will be more memorable and your eulogy will have more impact if you narrow its focus.
Tell stories in your Eulogy.
Including personal stories from your Dad’s life serves a dual purpose:
- Personal stories can help engage your audience
- Personal stories are easy to tell which makes your eulogy easier to deliver.
Select stories that speak to your father as a person and exemplify those one or two qualities you wish to focus on. If you have chosen to highlight your father’s cheery disposition for instance, select a story that speaks to your his ability to find levity in any situation, no matter what the circumstances:
No one diagnosed with cancer looks forward to radio therapy - no one except my dad that is!
I remember him saying to me at the time, “I’m really looking forward to the radiation.” When I asked him why, he said with a smile, “I’m hoping it will turn me into a superhero. Who knows, I could be the next Incredible Hulk!”.
Sweat the Small Stuff.
As well as trying to capture the essence of who your father was you should make an effort to include small sensory details: Perhaps your dad was a mechanic and always smelled of motor oil. Maybe his favourite colour was blue and he never left the house without wearing something blue. Perhaps it was the smell of smoke from the pizza oven that he lovingly built in the back yard.
Small sensory details like these not only bring your stories to life, they offer physical reminders of your dad that can really help with the grieving process.
Look to Outside Sources.
Emotions can often make it can hard to express things clearly in your own words. If find yourself having trouble expressing a point about your dad, try looking to outside sources. A quote that helps you express the point you’re making can be a great way to start or end your eulogy and, these days, you can find quotes online for just about any subject under the sun.
If your father was a religious man, Bible quotes may help. You can also look to books, movies, or songs your father loved for inspiration. If your father was a huge fan of Jonny Cash, for instance, you might include a favourite line, or a verse, from a Jonny Cash song in your eulogy.
Consider Including Some Light Relief.
Funeral ceremonies are, by nature, somber occasions, so a little laughter can go a long way in adding some welcome light relief.
That’s why you will find that the best eulogies are not all about sadness and loss; they are about celebrating a life well-lived. They share both serious and humorous stories. So, think of something funny to say about about your dad. Talk about his flaws - his little quirks that drove you crazy. Instead of ‘glorifying’ or ‘romanticising’ the man you knew and loved, provide people with a well-rounded version of him. Help them remember him as really was.
You should practice delivering your eulogy several times in the days leading to the funeral so you’re as ready as you can be. Read it out loud to yourself or ask a friend or family member to listen to you practice. Focus on the sections where you stumble, and practice those parts until you are comfortable.
But understand this- no matter how well prepared you feel you are, the emotion of the day will almost certainly catch up with you.
So, if you break down and cry… that’s okay.
If you stumble and lose your place… that’s okay, too.
People understand. There’s no need to beat yourself up over it. Just pause. Take a moment. Breathe deeply and gather yourself. Then move on when you’re good and ready.
What if Speaking is Just Too Much to For You Handle?
Speaking in public can be traumatic at the best of times. Speaking at their father’s funeral where emotions are running high leaves some people totally incapable of saying what they would like to say.
If you find yourself in this position don’t let it stop your words of dedication from being heard! Write your eulogy and simply have someone else, a family member, friend, or your Celebrant, deliver it for you.
Write the Eulogy That is Right for You
Writing a fitting eulogy for your dad is an extremely difficult and heartbreaking thing to do. So, however you choose to do it, do what is right for you. Remember, keep it personal and make it your own and you will deliver the best possible eulogy for your dad.
1. Short Eulogy - Daughter to Father (approx. 2 minutes)
Good morning, my name is Jane Smith and I would like to say thank you to everyone who has come here today to say goodbye to my dad.
My dad was my hero. He meant the world to me and he always made me feel special even though I was not always the most considerate daughter. If I asked him to do anything for me he would drop everything to help me.
My dad was a constant throughout my childhood – he worked hard but he was always around to take my brothers and I to our sport commitments. He loved to be at the footy watching the boys and he never missed any of my softball games. He wasn’t so great at helping with my homework but he always made sure that I sat down after school and got it done before I was allowed to go and play.
Dad was always telling us to be grateful for what we had and encouraged us to help others who weren’t quite so fortunate. He was someone who had a real sense of community, decency and integrity.
I remember when my friends would come round to the house my dad would embarrass me no end by telling his famous dad jokes…..he was the only one who thought they were funny but we all used to laugh anyway to make him feel good.
When I introduced dad to my husband Jack, for the first time, he gave him the third degree asking him all sorts of questions and poor Jack was terrified that he had given him the wrong answers. However, Dad had a soft spot for Jack and was very happy when he asked me to marry him. He said to Jack “Its about time!”.
When my dad gave me away at my wedding, not only was mum crying, but dad was too. He came across as being such a hard man but he was really a big softie. He told me at the alter that I would always be his little girl and that he was so very proud of me. He gave a beautiful speech at our reception and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
I will miss my dad. I will miss the conversations we used to have on the garden bench with a cup of coffee and his favourite biscuit. I will miss how he used to hug me before I went into the car to go home and he would always say “drive carefully”. I loved my dad so very much and I know that he loved me too.
Goodbye Dad and rest in peace.
1. Longer Eulogy - Son to Father (approx. 6 minutes)
It is difficult to stand before you and attempt to honour my father in words. I fear my words will fall terribly short of capturing dad’s true essence. So I will look to the poet Maya Angelou for help.
Maya Angelou once once said:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did but,
people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I think she could well have been talking about dad when she said this. Why? Because Dad was just an ordinary working man. He wrote no great books. He will not be remembered for what he said.
Nor will he be remembered for any great deeds that he did. He built no great buildings. No great monuments will be erected in his memory.
But, I have no doubt that dad will be remembered.
He will be remembered by all of us that knew him. From here in Perth to Papanui in New Zealand, he will be remembered for how he made us feel.
When I was about four we set off to live in Australia. We went ashore at one of the many stops the ship made along the way and I wandered off in a busy market place and got myself lost. I can still remember the feeling of terror when I realised I was lost and alone in a sea of strangers.
More importantly, I can remember the feeling that swept through me when, suddenly, out of nowhere came a hand. Dad’s hand. And I latched on to it for all I was worth. I was safe.
There hasn’t been a day go by in my life since then when I haven’t felt that feeling of being safe and secure; of being loved. And, that’s a wonderful feeling.
It’s also a wonderful feeling knowing, that no matter what, you have someone you can always turn to for advice. And, dad gave me that feeling in spades.
I took up Karate when I was about 11 and, one day, for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to demonstrate my new found karate skills on mum. Unfortunately my technique and control weren’t as good as I thought and instead of stopping just short, I punched mum square on the end of her nose.I had that sinking feeling again.
Dad didn’t let me down though, he had some sound words of advice when I asked him what I should do;
“Son,” he said, “I think you should run...while you still have the chance.”
Like each of us here, Dad was far from perfect. And, as much as I loved him, there were moments when he made me feel like I could strangle him. His incessant singing often made me feel like that. I use the term singing loosely because, while his songs may have had a tune, they seldom had any words, and they never, ever, had an ending!
As generous as dad was, he was thrifty. And, his thriftiness could be frustrating at times. Dad grew up in tough times at the end of the great depression. As a boy, he often had to scrounge for bits of coal or the odd stray fish or two that he could sell to help his mum make ends meet.
So, dad knew the value of money. He knew how to spin things out and get the most out of what he had. There were times though when he took his thrift too far. Take his hearing aids for example; no one could make a hearing aid battery last as long as dad did. I used to dread the odd occasion when he would answer the phone:
“Hello dad, It’s me - Bob”…
“Dad, It’s Bob”
“Dad, have you got your hearing aid on?”
“Hang on... I have to turn my hearing aid on.”
Dad spent his final weeks in hospital and during these weeks a visit from one of dad’s friends really helped me define my dad’s life and his legacy. Towards the end of his visit, Dad’s friend leaned in, took his hand and said;
“Brian, I just want to thank you. I want to thank you for being such a beautiful spirit.”
I can’t begin to tell you how proud those words made me feel. I really wish they’d been my words, because I can think of no better way to define what was special about my dad....
He truly was, a beautiful spirit.
What of Dad’s legacy? I think the closing line of a poem by, EE Cummings, points the way here;
“I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.”
There may be no books. There may be no buildings. There may no monuments to honour my dad’s time here on earth, but his beautiful spirit will live on in each of us here.
My son Leo will have his stray coins to reconnect him of dad.
For me, perhaps, it will be the touch of my future grandchild’s hand.
Each of us will find something that reconnects us with dad in the years ahead. When that happens his sprit will be rekindled in our hearts and we will be reminded of just how wonderful he made us feel.
“We will carry his heart, we will carry it in our hearts.”
I can think of no greater legacy.
Rest in peace beautiful spirit.