How to Give a Knockout Eulogy

On Saturday, September 3rd, we gathered together for the funeral of my cousin, Craig Gundersen who died at the age of 34 of lung cancer. He was not a smoker. His uncle Rich gave the eulogy. He began with the simple opening line, "For those of you who don't know me, I'm Rich, Craig's favorite uncle. " Everyone laughed.  With this one line Rich disarmed the crowd and put them at ease. Opening with humor broke the tension and enabled everyone to relax and listen. He addressed the other uncles in the room and with tongue- in -cheek told them that Craig was a diplomat and he really was the favorite uncle. Rich continued his eulogy with a series of personal stories extolling Craig's virtues and shortcomings. He spoke of the time when Craig asked him to finance his first year in college. (He had missed the deadline for applying for financial aid). Rich acknowledged that Craig built a good case but during his presentation,  Rich's attention was riveted on a white bandage on Craig's arm. He explained his fascination with the bandage. "I knew he had dropped a deuce to pay for that tatoo, and here he was asking me for money." Again there was laughter in the church.  It was his colorful language Craig with his father, Roy

(dropped a deuce instead of paid 200 dollars) that made it funny. Rich gave him the money. When Craig's grades dropped Rich confided that in any other case that would have been a deal breaker. But because Craig was such a special person, he financed him against his own rules. Several times Rich got choked up but was able to pull it together and continue. Showing emotion only makes the speaker more human and gives the audience permission to feel their feelings.  Unlike some eulogies where a villain suddenly transforms into a superhero, Rich painted a balanced picture of Craig.  Rather than a perfect person on a pedestal, he spoke of the real person-a special, loving, happy guy who was also human.  We got a true glimpse of who Craig really was through the words of his uncle. He acknowledged the parents and Craig's fiancee and how much they meant to Craig. When Rich finished his eulogy the congregation was so moved they burst into applause.  He captured the essence of Craig, the life he led, the lives he touched and spoke to us from his heart and with humor. It was a winning formula for any knockout presentation.

We miss you, Craig. 7/2/1977-8/30/2011