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Tuesday 8 August 2017

A Eulogy - what is it and how to write one

The word eulogy comes from two Greek words, eu meaning ‘good’ and logos meaning ‘word’ or ‘thought’. A eulogy is a speech in praise of or tribute to a dead person.
It can be very difficult to deliver a eulogy when you are grieving. Public speaking or writing a speech can be daunting under the best of circumstances but, when someone you love or care deeply about has died, being asked to “say a few words” at the funeral service can feel like a thousand-ton weight on your shoulders.

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Now this means to the average person that, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. (Jerry Seinfeld)

A eulogy should be a healing experience, for you and for the deceased’s family and friends.
Here are a few tips to help you:

• Write the eulogy in a form that will help you to deliver it. This can be key words on paper or a computer tablet, bullet points, a slide show or a full speech written out;
• Use your memories and ask the deceased’s family and friends for their stories;
• Sometimes, the most poignant eulogies can be read like a letter to the deceased;
• Your eulogy can include absolutely any type of words you like: humorous, sad, poetic, thought provoking, inspiring, dramatic, anything;
• It may help to think about the big achievements in the deceased’s life, the hurdles they overcame, the milestones they reached;
• Don’t be afraid to use poetry or quotations if they mean something to you, friends or family; it doesn’t matter whether it’s the words to a pop song or a Shakespearean quote;
• Try to avoid clich├ęs or common eulogy sentences, such as “We are here today to mourn the death of (name) …” or “(Name) will be sorely missed by all …”;
• You’re not on your own; others are grieving too. If you have to stop in the middle to compose yourself, don’t panic;
• Consider ending with a farewell to the deceased using
a piece of music or a video or a reading.

Few of us are saintly, but the eulogy should concentrate on what was positive in the deceased person’s life; if you must mention the negative, try to do so in humour.

Follow this advice and you will not go far wrong:
• Start with what you know: What you know is your relationship with the deceased, so start with your
memories, take out old photo albums or get online and go through some photos of you both to jog your memories. Remember the good times as well as the bad;
• Make a list about the person: Include details such as dates – birth, marriage, children, work dates, etc; names – spouse/partner, children, grandchildren; locations – childhood, teen years, trips abroad, etc; work life; hobbies; achievements;
• Seek out what you don’t know: Talk to the deceased’s family, friends, members of groups they belonged to about what they remember of the deceased;
• Humour: In the midst of mourning, your audience will appreciate some light-hearted, tasteful humour; referring to an anecdote, funny quote or accidental mishap is generally appreciated. But be careful – you’re not auditioning for stand-up comedy!
• Create your flow: Every speech or piece of writing should have a beginning, middle and an end – your eulogy should too. Interpret that chronologically or based on lifetime milestones – whatever seems appropriate;
• Time: Depending on the circumstances (religious ceremony or not), a eulogy should be no longer than 10 minutes and probably no shorter than two or three minutes. Speak slowly and calmly. Give yourself time and allow the audience to take in your words;
• Practice makes perfect: Practise your eulogy with close family or friends because they may wish to change some of what you say or add to it.

NOTE: If you’re delivering a eulogy for someone who has taken their own life, focus on understanding and empathising with the family’s grief and refrain from rationalisation and explanation. Arrange for loved ones to share good memories about his / her life. Humorous stories can be appropriate as they will lift the mood, if even momentarily, but be cautious. If possible, have anyone wishing to speak about the deceased write out their comments, as this will prevent any inappropriateness, however unintended, that may cause additional hurt or pain to the family.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Final Resting Place

Developments in technology have introduced new methods of disposing of bodies, including ecolation (combination of heat, cold and thermal pressures), resomation (where bodies are dissolved into an alkaline hydrolysis liquid) and promession (a process that freeze-dries bodies in nitrogen). Currently, the most common ways to dispose of a body in Ireland are burial and cremation (earth versus fire).

The funeral service for a burial or cremation is not vastly different. Following a service in a local church or other venue, one takes the body and the mourners to a burial ground, the other takes them to a crematorium. A further short service of last prayers, words or music can be held in either of these places.

Burial grounds (also known as cemeteries or graveyards) in Ireland typically are the responsibility of local authorities, although there are a number of privately-owned cemeteries as well.

Each of the burial grounds usually has a registrar or caretaker, who manages maintenance and the sale of plots in that site. Some graveyards forbid the purchase of a plot until a death has occurred and there is a ‘need’ for the plot. The reason for this is that they are running out of space!

You can re-open a grave to bury a member of the same family, but a space of at least one foot (30cm) above the previous burial must be left so the deeper the first body is buried, the better. It is possible to bury three or four people in
each grave plot.

The cost of buying a burial plot varies hugely. In rural Ireland, a burial plot could cost as little as €200 while in Dublin it could cost as much as €3,500. This cost does not include grave opening fees, which can add another €1,000 to the bill in some cemeteries. Burying someone and erecting a headstone or grave marker can provide a family with peace because they have somewhere physical to visit where they can feel close to the deceased. This is one of the reasons a lot of people opt for burial instead of cremation.

Cremation is becoming more popular in Ireland and is predicted to become even more so. It is often seen as a cheaper option, because a family does not have to pay for a plot of land on which to bury a body nor do they have to pay to have the grave opened. And cremation costs currently average about €600.
There are currently 6 crematoria in the Island of Ireland, three of which are located in Dublin, one in Cavan, one in Belfast and the other in Cork. However, anyone anywhere in Ireland can arrange for a cremation to take place in any of these crematoria. (more info here)

Note that a time slot of 30 minutes is given when booking a crematorium, so if you require a longer time – perhaps to hold a funeral service at the crematorium, ask for a double slot.

Remember to alert the funeral director of any pacemakers, breast implants, artificial plates or joints that the deceased may have. Most metals pass through the process without any difficulty but it is always better to communicate all the available information you have. At the end of the service in the crematorium, the coffin holding the body is moved into the committal room. Despite rumours, only one coffin is cremated at a time – although, if for example a mother and baby, or wife and husband, died together, they can be cremated together also.