It’s much more common, of course, to wait until you’ve left life behind and by default bequeathed the obit writing task to family members.
But the trend is toward writing your own final life summary, your obituary. I asked my support group of men if they were favorable or negative towards writing their own. Of the nine men, seven hands went up on yes, two on no.
If you decide for do-it-yourself, do include the standard categories of information recommended by funeral directors and the Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper:
- Your full name, age, city, and date of death.
- Family members who preceded you in death.
- Family members surviving you (still living).
- Visitation information (day, time, location).
- Service information (day, time, location).
- Interment information.
- Memorial preferences, if any.
That’s the basics. Also important, however, in writing any obituary, your own in advance or for any other person, the author should write with flair, with creativity. This lead sentence in a recently-published obit gets my attention:
“(name) danced out of our conscious, visible world into the mystery of beyond, unafraid. She introduced herself as a dancer, and was.”
Later in the obituary her dance group leader remarked, “(name) is the dancer who was always twirling and laughing. She had so much love for life. She showered us all.”
And consider how much suitable information about yourself that only you know and therefore only you can write. Here are some examples:
- Military service: Rank achieved, where you served, experiences that you want to relate. It’s worth noting that a published obituary is a permanent record. The newspaper that you publish in graduates from ink on paper to permanent small size film.
- Your career. Perhaps you were employed short term by a famous person or company or by the government in a job that had to be kept secret then but no longer is.
- The civic and church volunteer input you made that friends and family knew about but have now forgotten.
- Getting fired. If so, you might want to relate that you were fired once and that you gained valuable experience from it.
Getting around to writing about yourself can take some time. So take some time. Individual writing techniques vary. Practice-write, write/edit, or write/toss/rewrite.
One morning while working on this blog I felt the need for a break. Leaving my desk, I walked down the hall to the other wing of my apartment building floor and knocked on the door of a friend, Oliver K. Olson, age 94.
Oliver had Covid-19 but survived and now is ok. I asked if he had considered writing his own obituary, and he replied, “I already have! My nephew has it and will circulate copies when I’m gone.”
What was the value of writing it yourself? I asked. “I could include what I wanted to,” he replied, “I mentioned my Martin Luther book, Matthias Placius and the Survival of Luther’s Reform.
”My second volume is written and will be published soon, now that the pandemic is nearly over,” remarked Olson.
(Next blog: Planning Your Memorial Service (Funeral).
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