writing examples

I understand that when choosing a funeral celebrant, you want the right person for the job. You want someone who can not only write you the perfect eulogy but also deliver it in a manner that feels right for you. I hope you’ve seen the short video of me speaking, which gives you an idea of tone, timbre and of course what I look like.

However, I thought it also might be helpful to share with you some examples of pieces I’ve written recently. This gives you a sense of my style of writing or a flavour at least of what you might expect if you engage me to help in your funeral planning.

Eulogies

London in 1965 was a thriving centre of fashion, latest trends and world-famous pop music. The Mod movement was in full swing; women skirts were getting shorter and men’s hair was getting longer. It was here that Denise and Joseph Inglesbury had their beautiful son, Jeremiah in the autumn of that year. Right around now in fact as it would have been Jeremiah’s birthday just last Sunday.

Denise, or Denny as she is known, and Joseph’s home was in Greenwich and the family grew up happy and well, much like many south London families of their time. Denny stayed at home, and Joseph fixed cars up, mended broken vehicles and his mechanic work provided an income for them all.

The family home at this time was just on the south side of the river and not too far from the West Ham football ground. Despite this closeness, Jeremiah’s devotion was to lay elsewhere.

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In the 1970’s Peggy met Paul, a civil engineer, and the young couple married and moved to Ashford. Paul was a jolly man, certainly the more outgoing of the pair, but they enjoyed taking part in activities together as much as doing things separately. The couple had a buoyant and busy social life including the tennis club and visiting Paul’s parents for their holidays in Scotland.

Peggy and Paul could often be found enjoying a meal out: Peggy was always immaculately dressed and never a hair out of place. It was one of her great delights to enjoy the first Christmas dinner of the season.

They enjoyed time together and they enjoyed pursuits on their own. It could be said that they struck the perfect balance that most couples strive for and were happily married for over 40 years.

As an adult, Peggy continued to love deeply her brother Steven who lived in nearby Hythe and her sister Alison. Despite Alison’s moving away to America the two sisters were always extremely close. Frequent phone calls and visits wherever possible meant they were never far apart in their hearts and minds. Since Alison’s passing, her daughter, Peggy’s niece Karen has continued to maintain the family links.

Reflections

We are now going to take a moment for some personal reflection for you all to think about Peggy in your own hearts and in your own minds.

Think of all she was and all she meant to you, and all she will still mean to you now and forever.

Turn through these memories like the pages in a book, gently flicking through each special moment one at a time. This is your very own treasured book of memories that you can pick up and dip into whenever you want or need to.

Welcome

On behalf of John, Peter and Paul I’d like to offer you a warm welcome and to thank you for being here this afternoon to support them on this sad and difficult day.

It may be with heavy hearts that you have made your way here today and although we are here to celebrate Terry’s life, it may be hard to contemplate celebration when you are still coming to terms with his loss.

We are here to celebrate the special life of Richard Longfellow. To say thank you for the way he impacted on all your lives. And to gather together in love, friendship and respect as we say farewell to a much-loved partner, brother, son and friend.

I am sure you would like to join me in saying to Richard’s family that you are in our thoughts at this time. Please also let me express Richard’s family’s gratitude for your presence here today.

The journey of grief is long, and those who walk it should not have to walk it alone. At times like these, nothing takes the place of friends and family for comfort. Your presence now and in the days and weeks to come, helps the whole family realise how valuable Richard was to others and shows what an impact his living and dying has made.

Words of Comfort

We have been remembering with love and gratitude an important life, but more than that, we have been honouring life itself. It is how we move forward, with David in our hearts, that gives meaning to his passing.

I would ask you to take comfort in the assurance that death is not the end; it is not final; it does not ever separate us from those whom we love. David’s spirit lives on; around us and within us.

We now leave the memory of David in peace. Let us promise him to live our lives devoted to worthwhile things; to fill our own lives with words and actions of compassion and meaningful worth. 

How to write a eulogy

Many of the families for whom I officiate funeral services, often ask me to pen the whole service, from start to finish. However, you might feel that you’d like to write some of the content yourself, but you don’t know where to start. 

I thought I’d break down some ideas that might get you off on the right foot and spark some thoughts of your own.

Keep It Simple

Firstly, you may just like to choose a poem, prayer or words that have been written by someone else. This can take the pressure off you writing anything yourself, but by doing some internet research you will be able to find a truly heartfelt piece that captures the essence of all you’d like to say. 

Timing

These are often only a minute or so to read out, which also means you not up at the lectern feeling like you’ve got to fill up lots of time. Thirty seconds at a loved one’s funeral can feel like an eternity. Make it easy on yourself by choosing a perfect piece that reflects your feelings and you can simply read it out on the day.

What is a eulogy?

The main part of a funeral service is the eulogy or tribute. This is the life story of the deceased and usually takes around 5 – 7 minutes of the service. It is entirely possible for family members to write this themselves and is often the piece that, as a celebrant, I write for them. Either way is just fine.

It is usually the highest praise of the person, sums up their life, tells some warm memories and reflects on all their lifetime achievements.

Who gives the eulogy?

The eulogy, tribute or funeral speech, is an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. It is about their life and what they meant to you. It may be delivered by the celebrant but it doesn’t have to be. A highly regarded family member, elder, dear friend or next of kin may be asked or even want to, read the eulogy.

Honour or Poisoned Chalice?

It is often regarded as an honour to be asked to give a eulogy for a loved one or friend however the sense of responsibility that comes with it can make it feel like a heavy burden. 

It doesn’t have to feel that way though and if you’ve been asked, it’s a real indication that you played an important part in that person’s life.

All eulogies are unique so providing you speak from the heart, you are bound to strike the right note.

Where to start

One of the best ways to begin writing a eulogy is to talk to family members and close friends about their loved one. Is there anything that they would like you to include or mention, or a favourite anecdote or story they’d like to share?

Consider any military experience, sporting achievements, hobbies, schooling, favourite colour and historical events that happened in their lifetime. 

Often talking about the person with other people sets off memories as one story leads to another. Allow yourself plenty of time to go down memory lane. You might look at old photographs, go for a walk or visit a place that holds many positive memories for you.

Chronologically speaking 

It tends to land better when the tribute is, broadly, in chronological order. It can be easier for the mourners to follow if it maintains the natural order of time, rather than jumping about. Think about birth, school, courtship, marriage, children, career, retirement and passing away. 

Timing

When you’re writing a eulogy for the first time, don’t feel that you’ve got to write pages and pages. Practice reading it out, quite slowly, and time yourself to see how long it takes. It only needs to be about 5 minutes long, or 900 words roughly. 

Celebrants Role

A good celebrant will guide you through this process. Do ask for help or for a professional eye to glance over the piece you’ve prepared. A top-notch celebrant will help fine-tune your script, give encouragement for any improvements and also be ready to step in on the day, should it all get a bit much.

committal words

Suggestions for committal words at a funeral

Families find themselves at a point where they are facing an important funeral service for a loved one, often with little or no experience of how to put all the component parts together.

It is the role of a good celebrant like myself to help guide you through that process and make sure you give your loved one the send off they deserve.

During a funeral service there is a part called The Committal or The Farewell. Usually the hardest part emotionally as we say our final goodbye to the deceased, but also carries an important element of helping us grieve.

The words we choose at this time therefore are crucial: they must honour the deceased and reflect their wishes whilst also resonate with the family members and mourners to help them move on.

With that in mind I thought I would share with you three very different examples of committal words for funerals. These are usually spoken to the coffin itself and sometimes whilst the curtains are closing. It can be silent or have music playing if you prefer. The congregation also usually stand for this part of the service (if they are able to).

Example One: [name], as we bid you farewell, we are thankful to have shared joy in the sun, shelter in the storms, and to have laughed in the same moment.

We will treasure the memory of your words and works, your character and quality, and will be forever enriched for having known your face.

And so your kind and generous nature we commit to our memories.
Your love, humour and friendship we commit to our hearts.

Your body we commit to its end with nature.
Thank you for all that you were and all that you gave.
Love and light to you on this your final journey.

Example Two: [Deceased] your life we honour, your departure we have to accept, your memory we cherish.

In grief at your death
But in gratitude for your life
And for the privilege of sharing it with you.

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
In the opening of the buds and in the promise of spring,
In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer,
In the rustling of the leaves and the beauty of autumn,
In the beginning of the year and at its end
We will remember you always Barbara –
With much love, pride and affection.

Into the freedom of the wind and the sunshine–
We let you go.
Into the dance of the stars and the planets –
We let you go.
Into the wind’s breath and into the stardust –
We let you go.

{name}, your body we now tenderly and
reverently commit to its natural end.

With love we leave you in peace.
With respect we bid you farewell

Example Three: And so now as we prepare to say goodbye to {deceased} – it is a good time to remember that every life is unique, every person is individual and special.

Each life is created and lived by each person in the best way they know how. And that is how {deceased} lived – in the best way he knew how. So we thank him, for the gift he has been to each of us, for the richness of his personality, for the pleasure and love, laughter and tears that were shared together – and as we now hold him gently in our hearts let us prepare quietly to let him go onto the next part of his journey

If you are able to please stand:
{Deceased}, Your life we honour, your departure we have to accept, your memory we cherish
In grief at your death. But in gratitude for your life and for the privilege of sharing it with you, we release your body to its natural end.

I hope that’s given you some ideas for your loved one. Please do get in touch if I can help you with any further suggestions.

Until next time,
Jennie

Time for change

It’s been a beautiful autumn day here in Folkestone today. I take a walk along The Leas most days and today was no exception. It’s good to see small changes happening – families enjoying the afternoon sun, dog walkers and grandparents with toddlers. The schools have gone back so fewer children around this afternoon, but the scene looks much like it would have done in 2019.

The Leas has a strong association with the second world war, not only with the memorial arch but also in art installations dotted along its length. I decided to perch on a bench, to take a quick photo, and the inadvertently set off the memorial recording which are located under the benches. When the detectors can sense a person nearby, a recorded message is played relaying war time stories which in this instance, was a letter home from a soldier in the second world war.

The man speaking gave the date as 1939 and, in his letter home, told his parents of his love for them, his gratitude at all they had done for him and his hopes to return to his home when the war was over. It struck me as especially poignant as the year is the same as the birth year of a lady who’s service I shall be performing next week.

In my tribute, I drew parallels of the two periods of uncertainty and the requirement of the nation to be determined, patient and to pull together for the greater good. It’s funny how, all these years apart, and despite everyone saying our current situation is ‘unprecedented’, we’ve been called upon before to endure great difficulties.

So it was possible to enjoy my walk, in freedom and pleasant surroundings. Knowing that all things pass, that patient endurance is a skill we do well to acquire at any time in history and that even in our darkest hour, the sun still continues to shine.

I hope you’ve all managed to enjoy the warmth also.

Until next time,
Jennie

What actually happens at a Buddhist funeral?

Often people here in the West don’t necessarily consider themselves a practising Buddhist, however they certainly have enjoyed reading books on the subject, meditating, they may have Buddha statues around the house or enjoy using incense.

Some families want that to be expressed in their loved ones funeral service, but don’t know much about it themselves. Or, more importantly, they don’t want to over ride the feelings of family members present to the service, who may not share those views or understand what they’re all about.

Here’s a quick guide of things that may or may not be included or some suggestions as to how you can incorporate Buddhist funeral ideas into your family ceremony.

Different Traditions

Just as Christians have methodists, baptists, CofE and Catholic, we Buddhists also have different traditions. Broadly they fall under three main categories: Zen, Theravaden and Tibetan. Your loved one may have associated with one of these in particular in which case their Dhamma friends will be able to advise you on specific components to include in a funeral.
If however they didn’t align themselves with any one school in particular, these more broad concepts outlined here would keep a Buddhist feel without making any faux pas.

Music

Buddhist often practice rather a lot of their time in silence. Many temples and monasteries are kept in total silent or at least hushed tones. A short time spent in silence during the ceremony therefore might be a good way to reflect this rather than playing a piece of music.

Incense

If incense can be used at the crematorium, once everyone has been seated, it is an idea to light three sticks. These represent the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha – or the Buddha himself, the teachings he gave us and the community that practice.

If it’s not possible to light them inside the chapel, near the coffin, you may prefer to light them outside where the flowers are placed for everyone to view after the service has finished.

Clothing

It is advisable to wear white to a Buddhist funeral. This is common across all traditions. It may be just your normal clothing, so it doesn’t have to be something bought especially, it’s the colour that is important. This is a sign of purity and cleanliness often displayed by lay Buddhist when visiting temples or monasteries. Maybe a pair of summer trousers, a cream blazer or a white scarf wrapped around the shoulders.

Chanting

Most Buddhist monks and nuns would use chanting – instead of Christian singing of hymns for example, We use it as a way of calming the mind and preparing for meditation. However, it can be a little strange if you haven’t done it before. Often the words are not in English and it can seem a little out of people’s comfort zone. The Celebrant may feel confident to include a simple or short chant, which the congregation listen to but don’t join in with. The chant itself will be governed by the tradition of the deceased. As with most things Buddhist, if it doesn’t feel right just let it go.

God and or Soul

Buddhists don’t believe in God. The Buddha himself was not a God and so there would be no reference to a higher power.
Similarly we do not believe that we have a soul. When we die our energy is reborn into another vessel however it is not the ‘us‘ that we have come to know and love in this lifetime. Like a candle lighting the wick of another candle; it’s not the same flame, however we can see the link between the two.

Verses

The much read and well known Lord’s Prayer is not likely to be recited, so what can you use at a Buddhist funeral? The Metta Sutta is a short verse on loving kindness and often hits the spot. The Dhammapada is also a series of verses however you might like to select these sparingly as they can be heavy going to the uninitiated.
Be mindful of internet “quotes”; they are often fictitious and inaccurate. Books to borrow from friends or a library might offer some guidance too; the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh are both reputable and creditable sources.

Statues

A good idea is to have a Buddha statue, also known as a Buddha rupa, by the coffin and/or near a photo of the deceased. You may have one at home that is suitable or the Celebrant may be able to provide one for you.
Different traditions will have slightly different styles of statues so it might be worth checking that if possible. If you don’t know, or it’s not possible to find out, then the kind you might have in a home decor store or garden centre would be fine. The fat or laughing Buddha is very much associated with Chan/Zen Buddhism. If you’re not sure, you might prefer to go with a more generic style. Something plain and with his curly hair would be perfect.

Themes

Overall, Buddhism is largely about offering kindness to others, being content with little and letting go of all that is unhelpful. These characteristics of quietude, sensitivity and patience are all that is needed when acknowledging another person’s Buddha nature.
If your funeral takes these into account, I’m sure it would be a fitting tribute to somebody who felt an affinity with what the Buddha taught.

I hope that gives you a clearer picture on how to include some simple ideas for a Buddhist funeral. If you’d like to get in touch with me at any time, I offer a free no obligation chat. Just click the button below to book a time.