I remember how strongly I felt when my Nan died a few years ago, that the words spoken at her funeral should be about her.
I’d been to many funerals in the past, and while they’d all been lovely services it had sometimes been hard to detect anything of the person’s real qualities – the ones that had made them human – in the words spoken by the people officiating the ceremonies.
Nan had been larger than life; a genuine, caring yet no-nonsense matriarch who had kept our family together when bits of it had threatened to fall apart. In short, she’d been such a huge part of all our lives that I couldn’t bear for hers to be sanitised right at the very end. It also felt important that she was thanked for all she had done for our family, in front of everybody, for the last time.
I began by collecting my childhood memories, as well as those of my sisters and cousins, taking some time to write them all down. I was left with a sheaf of disjointed stories and recollections that wouldn’t have made sense to many people other than family members, so my first job was to make sure Nan’s eulogy could be inclusive – that absolutely anybody listening could understand what was being said about her.
I didn’t want it to be too long – Nan herself didn’t care too much for long-winded speeches – so I kept it all to one A4 page (to be honest, as I was also going to be reading the words aloud I wasn’t sure I could have held it together for much longer than that anyway.)
I did this by picking out the memories and characteristics that really summoned the essence of Nan, and particularly those that might have brought a smile, such as her reluctance to ever let anybody leave her house without having eaten something – even if it was just an out-of-date biscuit!
The eulogy ended with the thank you we’d all wanted to give, along with a saying often repeated; that while you can choose your friends, you can’t choose your family. But we were lucky in that respect, because we all would have chosen Nan.
It was wonderful to have been able to create a personalised tribute for someone as vibrant and as real as her, and several family members asked for copies of it after the funeral had passed.
If you’re wondering what sort of memories you could write for a loved one, start by simply trying to remember them, exactly as they were. It’s lovely to be able to tell people about the things that made someone you loved so real and special, and taking time to recall them in words is, in my opinion at least, time very well spent.