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At a funeral there is usually a eulogy by family or close friend of the deceased. This usually covers interesting details of their lives. Unfortunately, just hearing it once means you'll miss things. Is it appropriate to ask for the text of the eulogy?

For some people I would want this, and would read it privately many times, and it could be quite special and comforting. However, the eulogy text is never offered (in my experience) and asking for it seems kind of uncomfortable. I realize they could just say no, but just asking may make the survivor feel awkward. Is there an etiquette for this?

I'm in the UK but interested in any cultures.

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I come from a family of artists - most of my aunts and siblings are either writers, drawers, painters and/or musicians. My mother is one of them and really is gifted when it comes to choosing the right words.

When my father died, my mother wrote the eulogy for his funeral. And what she wrote truly shook all of us, be it relatives or old coworkers. It was moving for our family because we don't talk about feelings and she somehow managed to write something that truly represented my father without using cliché phrasings and for his old friends because well, since he didn't talk about feelings, I suspect they didn't know that side of him.

Both relatives and acquaintances kindly asked my mother whether they could have a copy of the eulogy. Some did it very politely, some others were quite inconsiderate. Here is some advice based on both experiences:

Dos

  • explain why you'd like to have a copy. Briefly recall the relationship you had with the deceased (in case they don't know you so well) and tell them that you think the text could be a great reminder of what kind of person they were.

My uncle and grandparents used something along the lines of

What you wrote was really moving and truly represented who he was. It'd be really nice if you could hand me a copy of the text some time.

No pressure on when to give that copy, no hard feelings if my mother wanted to keep it for herself. They explained how it'd benefit them to have the eulogy.

You could add "I think it'd truly help honoring his memory" at the end of that but be careful only to do so if you were really close to the deceased and know that the eulogy wasn't embellished for the acquaintances in the audience. It'd ruin the legitimacy of your request.

Don'ts

  • don't ask the speaker right after the funeral. They're mourning after all, now probably isn't a good time. Reach out to them a few days after the ceremony (I'd suggest one to two weeks so that it's still "fresh" ; coming with such a request months after would simply seem weird), preferably via email so that you don't take the chance of making the person sob on the phone - it'd just be embarrassing for both of you.

  • if you weren't that close to the deceased, it might not be a good idea to do so. As you said, a eulogy usually contains some intimate details about their life and it would sound creepy for someone they don't know that well to want to keep a record of this private information.

  • don't insist if they seem uncomfortable or initially refuse your request. It'd just seem like a pushy and inappropriate behaviour to have in times of emotional distress and is likely to burn bridges between you.

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  • If the details were too intimate to give to someone who attended the funeral, would they really have said them publicly in the eulogy? – Barmar Dec 13 '19 at 21:50
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    @Barmar Possibly. In my father's funeral I gave a eulogy most for myself and for his memory, saying things that were very personal from both of us. At the time I needed closure, and to give release to the emotions felt good. I would have given a copy to his sisters, but no to some other people who came mainly because it wasn't only personal for my father, but also for me. – LordHieros Dec 14 '19 at 1:32
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The answer by avazula is excellent, and I just have one thing to add to it.

The speaker may or may not have a written copy which is more or less what was actually said at the service. People have a variety of styles in preparing for and speaking in front of a group, including but not limited to:

  • Writing the entire speech and reading it verbatim
  • Writing an entire speech but rephrasing parts on the fly to keep the feel more natural
  • Writing an entire speech but inserting ideas or tangents when speaking
  • Writing just an outline of main points or reminders of things to mention
  • Mentally planning and using a similar outline

(Speakers might also start with any of the above, but then rehearse their speech until they no longer need to bring any text, or just bring briefer notes, with them when speaking.) The options further down the list are probably more common for people with more experience and/or training with public or group speaking.

So if you will be requesting a written copy, you could ask for "your draft or notes for the eulogy" rather than simply "the text". This just provides a hint that you will understand if what you receive is not exactly what was said. And the speaker might be relieved of a minor worry or some amount of explanation over that point.

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