How to Write a Eulogy – When You’re Not A Writer

My grandfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer right before Christmas of 2015. He was only expected to live 4 weeks. This was devastating news. My grandparents adopted me when I was 2 years old so they were my parents… To get the news that your dad is dying was heart breaking.

Writing a Eulogy. When you're not a writer

I remember falling on my face and begging to God to please let us have more time with him before He brought him home. God did just that.

He gave us almost an entire year with Papa before we heard that the cancer had spread to his brain. They did radiation treatments, but eventually the cancer was just too far gone.

My sweet papa died on November 15th 2016.

If I wouldn’t have wrote his eulogy months before, I don’t think I could have done it. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Happy he wasn’t suffering, but suffering myself because I missed him so incredibly much…

In June of 2016 I sat down at my computer and wrote down ideas that reminded me most of my papa. In the first section of the eulogy I wrote down words like hard worker, patient father, loving husband, giving, compassionate, caring, independent, stubborn, hard-headed. In the second section I wrote loved animals, horseback riding, fishing, eating. In another section I wrote “Stories”, and in another section I wrote “Battles”.

Before writing, I did some research online about how long a typical eulogy should be and the answer I kept coming across was 10-15 minutes.

Once I formed the ideas & had an idea about the length, I started writing an outline. The eulogy looked something like this:

I. Introduction
A. Kind Person
B. The Caregiver & Provider
C. Stories
D. Hunter &Papa
II. Kind Person
A. Animals, Elderly, Children
III. Stories Growing Up
A. Gardening
B. Horseback Riding
III. Hunter & Papa
A. Beginning of their friendship
B. Funny Story
IV. Health Battles
V. Saved
VI. Closure

It took me several hours before I was pleased with an outcome. I changed up stories and moved things around until I felt like the eulogy to my sweet grandfather flowed like it should. In the end my eulogy looked like this.

The Eulogy

Most of you know me, I’m Amanda. I’m Johnny’s granddaughter by blood, but adoptive daughter by love. Today I’m not going to stand here and tell you how much we will miss this sweet man; even Webster’s dictionary couldn’t bear the words to describe the feelings. Instead today I’m here to celebrate and honor his life and legacy.


Everyone who met papa loved him, especially children, animals and the elderly. He was always helping people. He would give to others before he would help himself. Everyone who met him has always told me he was a sweet man, and they were right, he was. He was also a hard worker, and very dedicated. He was a compassionate friend, patient father, and a loving husband. He was also very independent, stubborn, and hard-headed.


Papa loved animals, children, and the elderly. Instead of farmer, his title really should have been caregiver, because that’s what he was and that’s what he enjoyed. I remember we always had some type of animal when I was little. All kinds of stray dogs, cats, and all types of farm animals! He loved taking care of them. He also cared for several elderly people in his lifetime, two brothers Frank & Irvin Dooley, his sister’s Sarah and Jenny, his friend Pete Earl, he helped a 98 year old man down the road Joe Curtis, and he helped his brothers and sisters, and so many others. Any time they needed a helping hand he was there.


Not only did animals and the elderly cling to papa, so did children. Every child who ever met papa stuck to him like glue. I don’t think that man ever met a child who didn’t like him. It used to make me so jealous when my friends would play with him or call him papa! They all loved him! He truly was a sweet & giving man. Someone once said “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others”. That was certainly papa.


They say when someone leaves a footprint on your heart they’re never really gone, and I’m here to tell you today that’s true. There are memories so fond to me that papa still lives in them.


When I was a little girl, I can remember papa working in his garden. I would want to be right by his side so I’d trail along. I can still smell the freshly ground dirt as I trailed along behind him barefoot as he plowed; my feet digging into that red dirt. I still remember the feeling of that dirt being so cool under my feet on that dreadful hot day. Papa would turn around and give me a big grin. He’d start digging the holes and he would give me the very important task of planting the seeds.


When I grew a little older, my papa bought me my first horse and taught me to ride. Now if you knew anything about papa, you knew he loved horses. He’d help me saddle Patches up and I’d sling my feet into the stirrups. I loved to go full canter and my hair and her mane were like they were dancing together in the wind. With each stride our hair would dance. I’d look up at papa and there he was again with that sweet smile. I don’t think his smile could get any bigger, he was so proud he taught his little tomboy how to ride. The smell of the horses, the barn, every aspect of those moments are so real to me. That’s something I’ll never forget.


On February 4th 2009, papa’s life changed forever. On that day he would not only meet his first and only grandson, but he met his best friend. I sure am gonna miss those precious giggles and laughs when they were play wrestling or doing burping contests. Anyone who knew papa after Hunter was born knew where his joy was at. Hunter would fuss wanting to go to papa’s house and Papa would fuss wanting Hunter to come see him. They were nearly inseparable!


Not too long ago, after papa’s diagnosis, Hunter was at Nenaw and Papas. Papa would sometimes get in a state to where he would lose control of his muscles due to low blood, one of the side effects of chemo. This particular day was worse than other days, but Hunter would lighten the mood as always. Papa went to go to the bathroom and lost control of his muscles and hit his head on the door. Nenaw was in the shower and Hunter hollered for her to come help. She threw a towel around her and jumped out to help. While she was helping him, her towel fell off and she hollered for Hunter to turn his head. I think that child was scarred for life. A few months later when Papa started forgetting things Hunter went around the house labeling everything. Like wall, door, couch, etc. Well he put a sign on their door that said “Do Not Come In, She is NAKED!”. I think he wanted to spare Papa’s eyesight!


Papa was also a fighter. He suffered for a long time with degenerative disc disease that caused him extreme pain in his back.  It eventually caused him to sell his cattle and farm animals, which is something he truly enjoyed. He also survived a heart attack, acute renal failure in both kidneys, in which he received a new kidney, immacular degeneration in his eyes, and when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, he survived nearly 12 more months after the doctor told him he had 4 weeks. He suffered from more non-life threatening problems, but nothing brought him down. He was a fighter and a survivor. I know of no other person that has went through the trials and health problems that he has.


Papa died at home with all of us by his side telling him how much we loved him. As he was passing, Mercy Me’s I Can Only Imagine played on the Pandora radio. I don’t think there could have been a more fitting song to pop up. I’m telling you, God’s grace is sufficient. After he passed, I stepped outside on the front porch. I haven’t told anyone this, but I was praying “Dear Lord, I know you will – but please take care of my sweet papa. He’s done so much good in this world, and we’re gonna miss him”. Afterward I took a picture of the clouds because they were just so beautiful. But then right after, a cross appeared in the sky.


Matthew 5:4 – Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.


The most proud and most reassuring thing I can stand up here today and tell you, is that my papa was saved. He asked Jesus Christ as his personal savior a number of years ago and because of that, I know without a shadow of doubt that at that very moment he shut his eyes, in the very next, he was in heaven. That’s the number one most important thing he could have ever done in his life. Every good deed he had done couldn’t secure his eternal resting place, but when he opened his heart to Jesus, that sure did. The Bible says there’s only one way to Heaven and it’s through Jesus. I am blessed to be able to tell you today that my papa got to Heaven, and it was the through Jesus!


I know first-hand the pain of losing someone so special and so kind is hard. But today lets focus on his life; lets focus on those unforgettable memories that we can still live in; lets focus on the funny moments; and lets rejoice in the fact that’s he’s at home and no longer suffering.


Someone famous once said “for death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity”.


Now I know this is not perfect. I’m sure I had mistakes, but for the most part I was happy that I could come up with a tribute to my sweet dad that showed the loving & kind person he was.

The pastor asked me if I wanted him to read the eulogy at his funeral. I thought long and hard about it. I decided that this would be my final “gift” to my Papa, and it was the least I could do for everything that he did for me. I practiced and practiced reading the Eulogy. It was difficult but I just kept telling myself “its for Papa. Do it for Papa”.

The day of the funeral was difficult. More difficult than I could have imagined. We had a year to prepare ourselves for this day, but no amount of time could have ever been enough.

If you’re writing a eulogy – remember the reason you’re writing it. I knew I wanted to show what a loving, kind person my grandfather was, but I also wanted a funny story to lighten the atmosphere. Keep focused on your points and edit, edit, edit.

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