I stumbled across Simon Letch's article on writing obituaries that he had published in the Good Weekend magazine in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Most writers agree: writing can be the pits. But what I've discovered is it all pales in comparison to the sheer brutality of writing a tribute to a loved one who has recently died. It doesn't matter if you believe in the afterlife or not: we honour the dead to console the living.
Simon suggests eight starting points when writing an obituary or preparing a eulogy, (Simon is of Chinese origin and says that number's lucky.)
- How did you first meet and what was your initial impression?
- What was their superpower?
- What did you and other people love about them?
- What did they love about the people who'll read/hear this?
- What's something you know about them that no one else does?
- How did you rely on them?
- What was their favourite place in the world, and why?
- If there was something you wished you could say to them now, what would it be?
All of which reminds of a eulogy I listened to once. The person delivering it is a highly respected educator. The eulogy was in remembrance of his father who seemed to be quite an achiever. For twenty minutes or so we were told about the many things the deceased had accomplished in his life, how he had helped others, ran charities, fought for causes, supported community and so on and so on.... What we didn't seem to hear about was how well the deceased father of the speaker had interacted with his immediate family.
As he got to the end, the narrator looked the audience in the eye and said "... if there was one thing I learned from my father it was how not to be a father".