Writing a eulogy can feel overwhelming. It can be hard to put into words how much a loved one means to you, and then share those words through grief in front of others. However, when the process is done correctly, writing a eulogy can be a thought-provoking and emotional experience that allows you to grieve and share meaningful memories with others.
These sample eulogies can serve as a template and help inspire you to put pen to paper, to guide your own thoughts as you share your treasured memories with friends and family.
Eulogy for George H.W. Bush by his son George W. Bush
Distinguished Guests, including our Presidents and First Ladies, government officials, foreign dignitaries, and friends: Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I, and our families, thank you all for being here.
I once heard it said of man that “The idea is to die young as late as possible.” At age 85, a favorite pastime of George H. W. Bush was firing up his boat, the Fidelity, and opening up the three-300 horsepower engines to fly – joyfully fly – across the Atlantic, with Secret Service boats straining to keep up.
At 90, George H. W. Bush parachuted out of an aircraft and landed on the grounds of St. Ann’s by the Sea in Kennebunkport, Maine – the church where his mom was married and where he’d worshipped often. Mother liked to say he chose the location just in case the chute didn’t open.
In his 90’s, he took great delight when his closest pal, James A. Baker, smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently, it paired well with the steak Baker had delivered from Morton’s.
To his very last days, Dad’s life was instructive. As he aged, he taught us how to grow old with dignity, humor, and kindness – and, when the Good Lord finally called, how to meet Him with courage and with joy in the promise of what lies ahead.
One reason Dad knew how to die young is that he almost did it – twice. When he was a teenager, a staph infection nearly took his life. A few years later he was alone in the Pacific on a life raft, praying that his rescuers would find him before the enemy did. God answered those prayers. It turned out He had other plans for George H.W. Bush. For Dad’s part, I think those brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life. And he vowed to live every day to the fullest.
Dad was always busy – a man in constant motion – but never too busy to share his love of life with those around him. He taught us to love the outdoors. He loved watching dogs flush a covey. He loved landing the elusive striper. And once confined to a wheelchair, he seemed happiest sitting in his favorite perch on the back porch at Walker’s Point contemplating the majesty of the Atlantic. The horizons he saw were bright and hopeful. He was a genuinely optimistic man. And that optimism guided his children and made each of us believe that anything was possible.
He continually broadened his horizons with daring decisions. He was a patriot. After high school, he put college on hold and became a Navy fighter pilot as World War II broke out. Like many of his generation, he never talked about his service until his time as a public figure forced his hand. We learned of the attack on Chichi Jima, the mission completed, the shoot-down. We learned of the death of his crewmates, whom he thought about throughout his entire life. And we learned of his rescue.
And then, another audacious decision; he moved his young family from the comforts of the East Coast to Odessa, Texas. He and mom adjusted to their arid surroundings quickly. He was a tolerant man. After all, he was kind and neighborly to the women with whom he, mom and I shared a bathroom in our small duplex – even after he learned their profession – ladies of the night
Dad could relate to people from all walks of life. He was an empathetic man. He valued character over pedigree. And he was no cynic. He looked for the good in each person – and usually found it.
Dad taught us that public service is noble and necessary; that one can serve with integrity and hold true to the important values, like faith and family. He strongly believed that it was important to give back to the community and country in which one lived. He recognized that serving others enriched the giver’s soul. To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light.
In victory, he shared credit. When he lost, he shouldered the blame. He accepted that failure is part of living a full life, but taught us never to be defined by failure. He showed us how setbacks can strengthen.
None of his disappointments could compare with one of life’s greatest tragedies, the loss of a young child. Jeb and I were too young to remember the pain and agony he and mom felt when our three-year-old sister died. We only learned later that Dad, a man of quiet faith, prayed for her daily. He was sustained by the love of the Almighty and the real and enduring love of our mom. Dad always believed that one day he would hug his precious Robin again.
He loved to laugh, especially at himself. He could tease and needle, but never out of malice. He placed great value on a good joke. That’s why he chose Simpson to speak. On email, he had a circle of friends with whom he shared or received the latest jokes. His grading system for the quality of the joke was classic George Bush. The rare 7s and 8s were considered huge winners – most of them off-color.
George Bush knew how to be a true and loyal friend. He honored and nurtured his many friendships with his generous and giving soul. There exist thousands of handwritten notes encouraging, or sympathizing, or thanking his friends and acquaintances.
He had an enormous capacity to give of himself. Many a person would tell you that dad became a mentor and a father figure in their life. He listened and he consoled. He was their friend. I think of Don Rhodes, Taylor Blanton, Jim Nantz, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and perhaps the unlikeliest of all, the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton. My siblings and I refer to the guys in this group as “brothers from other mothers.”
He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted. He played golf at a legendary pace. I always wondered why he insisted on speed golf. He was a good golfer.
Well, here’s my conclusion: he played fast so that he could move on to the next event, to enjoy the rest of the day, to expend his enormous energy, to live it all. He was born with just two settings: full throttle, then sleep. He taught us what it means to be a wonderful father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was firm in his principles and supportive as we began to seek our own ways. He encouraged and comforted, but never steered. We tested his patience – I know I did – but he always responded with the great gift of unconditional love.
Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy who answered the phone said, “I think he can hear you, but hasn’t said anything most of the day. I said, “Dad, I love you, and you’ve been a wonderful father.” And the last words he would ever say on earth were, “I love you, too.” To us, he was close to perfect. But, not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. He wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor. The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us.
Finally, every day of his 73 years of marriage, Dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. He married his sweetheart. He adored her. He laughed and cried with her. He was dedicated to her totally.
In his old age, dad enjoyed watching police show reruns, volume on high, all the while holding mom’s hand. After mom died, Dad was strong, but all he really wanted to do was to hold mom’s hand, again.
Of course, Dad taught me another special lesson. He showed me what it means to be a President who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country. When the history books are written, they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great President of the United States – a diplomat of unmatched skill, a Commander in Chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.
In his Inaugural Address, the 41st President of the United States said this: “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?”
Well, Dad – we’re going remember you for exactly that and so much more. And we’re going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever. So, through our tears, let us see the blessings of knowing and loving you – a great and noble man, and the best father a son or daughter could have.
And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.
Princess Diana Eulogy by her brother Earl Charles Spencer
I stand before you today the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock. We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but rather in our need to do so. For such was her extraordinary appeal that the tens of millions of people taking part in this service all over the world via television and radio who never actually met her, feel that they too lost someone close to them in the early hours of Sunday morning. It is a more remarkable tribute to Diana than I can ever hope to offer her today.
Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity. All over the world, a standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a very British girl who transcended nationality. Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.
Today is our chance to say thank you for the way you brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life. We will all feel cheated always that you were taken from us so young and yet we must learn to be grateful that you came along at all. Only now that you are gone do we truly appreciate what we are now without and we want you to know that life without you is very, very difficult.
We have all despaired at our loss over the past week and only the strength of the message you gave us through your years of giving has afforded us the strength to move forward.
There is a temptation to rush to canonise your memory, there is no need to do so. You stand tall enough as a human being of unique qualities not to need to be seen as a saint. Indeed to sanctify your memory would be to miss out on the very core of your being, your wonderfully mischievous sense of humour with a laugh that bent you double.
Your joy for life transmitted where ever you took your smile and the sparkle in those unforgettable eyes. Your boundless energy which you could barely contain.
But your greatest gift was your intuition and it was a gift you used wisely. This is what underpinned all your other wonderful attributes and if we look to analyse what it was about you that had such a wide appeal we find it in your instinctive feel for what was really important in all our lives.
Without your God-given sensitivity we would be immersed in greater ignorance at the anguish of Aids and HIV sufferers, the plight of the homeless, the isolation of lepers, the random destruction of landmines.
Diana explained to me once that it was her innermost feelings of suffering that made it possible for her to connect with her constituency of the rejected.
And here we come to another truth about her. For all the status, the glamour, the applause, Diana remained throughout a very insecure person at heart, almost childlike in her desire to do good for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of unworthiness of which her eating disorders were merely a symptom.
The world sensed this part of her character and cherished her for her vulnerability whilst admiring her for her honesty.
The last time I saw Diana was on July 1, her birthday in London, when typically she was not taking time to celebrate her special day with friends but was guest of honour at a special charity fundraising evening. She sparkled of course, but I would rather cherish the days I spent with her in March when she came to visit me and my children in our home in South Africa. I am proud of the fact apart from when she was on display meeting President Mandela we managed to contrive to stop the ever-present paparazzi from getting a single picture of her – that meant a lot to her.
These were days I will always treasure. It was as if we had been transported back to our childhood when we spent such an enormous amount of time together – the two youngest in the family.
Fundamentally she had not changed at all from the big sister who mothered me as a baby, fought with me at school and endured those long train journeys between our parents’ homes with me at weekends.
It is a tribute to her level-headedness and strength that despite the most bizarre-like life imaginable after her childhood, she remained intact, true to herself.
There is no doubt that she was looking for a new direction in her life at this time. She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers. I don’t think she ever understood why her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down. It is baffling.
My own and only explanation is that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum. It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this – a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.
She would want us today to pledge ourselves to protecting her beloved boys William and Harry from a similar fate and I do this here Diana on your behalf. We will not allow them to suffer the anguish that used regularly to drive you to tearful despair.
And beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned.
We fully respect the heritage into which they have both been born and will always respect and encourage them in their royal role but we, like you, recognise the need for them to experience as many different aspects of life as possible to arm them spiritually and emotionally for the years ahead. I know you would have expected nothing less from us.
William and Harry, we all cared desperately for you today. We are all chewed up with the sadness at the loss of a woman who was not even our mother. How great your suffering is, we cannot even imagine.
I would like to end by thanking God for the small mercies he has shown us at this dreadful time. For taking Diana at her most beautiful and radiant and when she had joy in her private life. Above all we give thanks for the life of a woman I am so proud to be able to call my sister, the unique, the complex, the extraordinary and irreplaceable Diana whose beauty, both internal and external, will never be extinguished from our minds.
Eulogy for John F. Kennedy, Jr. by his uncle Senator Edward Kennedy
Thank you, President and Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea, for being here today. You’ve shown extraordinary kindness through the course of this week.
Once, when they asked John what he would do if he went into politics and was elected president, he said, “I guess the first thing is call up Uncle Teddy and gloat.” I loved that. It was so like his father.
From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family, but to the American family. The whole world knew his name before he did. A famous photograph showed John racing across the lawn as his father landed in the White House helicopter and swept up John in his arms. When my brother saw that photo, he exclaimed, “Every mother in the United States is saying, ‘Isn’t it wonderful to see that love between a son and his father, the way that John races to be with his father.’ Little do they know, that son would have raced right by his father to get to that helicopter.”
But John was so much more than those long ago images emblazoned in our minds. He was a boy who grew into a man with a zest for life and a love of adventure. He was a pied piper who brought us all along. He was blessed with a father and mother who never thought anything mattered more than their children.
When they left the White House, Jackie’s soft and gentle voice and unbreakable strength of spirit guided him surely and securely to the future. He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it. Above all, Jackie gave him a place to be himself, to grow up, to laugh and cry, to dream and strive on his own.
John learned that lesson well. He had amazing grace. He accepted who he was, but he cared more about what he could and should become. He saw things that could be lost in the glare of the spotlight. And he could laugh at the absurdity of too much pomp and circumstance.
He loved to travel across the city by subway, bicycle and roller blade. He lived as if he were unrecognizable, although he was known by everyone he encountered. He always introduced himself, rather than take anything for granted. He drove his own car and flew his own plane, which is how he wanted it. He was the king of his domain.
He thought politics should be an integral part of our popular culture, and that popular culture should be an integral part of politics. He transformed that belief into the creation of “George.” John shaped and honed a fresh, often irreverent journal. His new political magazine attracted a new generation, many of whom had never read about politics before.
John also brought to “George” a wit that was quick and sure. The premier issue of “George” caused a stir with a cover photograph of Cindy Crawford dressed as George Washington with a bare belly button. The “Reliable Source” in The Washington Post printed a mock cover of “George” showing not Cindy Crawford, but me dressed as George Washington, with my belly button exposed. I suggested to John that perhaps I should have been the model for the first cover of his magazine. Without missing a beat, John told me that he stood by his original editorial decision.
John brought this same playful wit to other aspects of his life. He campaigned for me during my 1994 election and always caused a stir when he arrived in Massachusetts. Before one of his trips to Boston, John told the campaign he was bringing along a companion, but would need only one hotel room. Interested, but discreet, a senior campaign worker picked John up at the airport and prepared to handle any media barrage that might accompany John’s arrival with his mystery companion. John landed with the companion all right – an enormous German shepherd dog named Sam he had just rescued from the pound.
He loved to talk about the expression on the campaign worker’s face and the reaction of the clerk at the Charles Hotel when John and Sam checked in. I think now not only of these wonderful adventures, but of the kind of person John was. He was the son who quietly gave extraordinary time and ideas to the Institute of Politics at Harvard that bears his father’s name. He brought to the institute his distinctive insight that politics could have a broader appeal, that it was not just about elections, but about the larger forces that shape our whole society.
John was also the son who was once protected by his mother. He went on to become her pride — and then her protector in her final days. He was the Kennedy who loved us all, but who especially cherished his sister Caroline, celebrated her brilliance, and took strength and joy from their lifelong mutual admiration society. And for a thousand days, he was a husband who adored the wife who became his perfect soul mate. John’s father taught us all to reach for the moon and the stars. John did that in all he did — and he found his shining star when he married Carolyn Bessette.
How often our family will think of the two of them, cuddling affectionately on a boat, surrounded by family — aunts, uncles, Caroline and Ed and their children, Rose, Tatiana, and Jack, Kennedy cousins, Radziwill cousins, Shriver cousins, Smith cousins, Lawford cousins — as we sailed Nantucket Sound. Then we would come home, and before dinner, on the lawn where his father had played, John would lead a spirited game of touch football. And his beautiful young wife, the new pride of the Kennedys, would cheer for John’s team and delight her nieces and nephews with her somersaults.
We loved Carolyn. She and her sister Lauren were young extraordinary women of high accomplishment — and their own limitless possibilities. We mourn their loss and honor their lives. The Bessette and Freeman families will always be part of ours.
John was a serious man who brightened our lives with his smile and his grace. He was a son of privilege who founded a program called Reaching Up to train better caregivers for the mentally disabled. He joined Wall Street executives on the Robin Hood Foundation to help the city’s impoverished children. And he did it all so quietly, without ever calling attention to himself. John was one of Jackie’s two miracles. He was still becoming the person he would be, and doing it by the beat of his own drummer. He had only just begun. There was in him a great promise of things to come.
The Irish Ambassador recited a poem to John’s father and mother soon after John was born. I can hear it again now, at this different and difficult moment:
“We wish to the new child,
A heart that can be beguiled,
By a flower,
That the wind lifts,
As it passes.
If the storms break for him,
May the trees shake for him,
Their blossoms down.
In the night that he is troubled,
May a friend wake for him,
So that his time be doubled,
And at the end of all loving and love
May the Man above,
Give him a crown.”
We thank the millions who have rained blossoms down on John’s memory. He and his bride have gone to be with his mother and father, where there will never be an end to love. He was lost on that troubled night, but we will always wake for him, so that his time, which was not doubled, but cut in half, will live forever in our memory, and in our beguiled and broken hearts. We dared to think, in that other Irish phrase, that this John Kennedy would live to comb gray hair, with his beloved Carolyn by his side. But like his father, he had every gift but length of years. We who have loved him from the day he was born, and watched the remarkable man he became, now bid him farewell.
God bless you, John and Carolyn. We love you and we always will.