A little over a year ago, I attended the funeral of one of my dearest friends. His death was sudden and heartbreaking. To make things even more sorrowful; it happened during the Christmas/New Year’s Eve holiday season.
My buddy was barely into his 40s, and no one saw it coming. He was a son, a friend, a US Air Force Veteran, security officer to politicians and so much more. His home-going was on a chilling gray day in South Carolina that fortunately, was made more uplifting thanks to the regal presence of the Air Force Honor Guard.
I’ve never been in a situation that called for me to eulogize a comrade and wasn’t emotionally prepared to handle it at that time, but here is what I learned from watching one of my friend’s colleagues share fond memories:
Get basic information from other co-workers and HR. The easiest way to start crafting a memorable story is to gather the facts. Your colleague’s boss or someone in human resources should be able to provide notable ones such as start state, promotions, and work-community involvement, awards received, etc. These details show a different side of the deceased that many never knew.
Talk about your relationship. What was it like working together? What fond office memories do you have that are appropriate to share? Including these tidbits helps you color in a piece of his or her life to which others wouldn’t be privy.
Collect stories from colleagues. See if you can get memories from others in the office about your fallen co-worker. Was there a volunteer project that they were a part of? What about his or her work ethic? If your colleague was known for showing up early or leaving late, include that.
Be brief. Two to three minutes is ample time to speak. Once you’ve shared great stories, leave room for the family and friends to process the information you just imparted. Anything more than a couple of minutes risks being more damaging than comforting.
Should you ever find yourself in the position of having to eulogize a colleague, I hope these tips help you get through that difficult time.