Writing your own obituary seems so logical but we procrastinate, don’t we?. You know it will happen sooner or later, right? We are living longer and soon most everyone will be able to enjoy life past one hundred years. Although this is true, no matter how long you have to enjoy your life you have memorable, outstanding events to share with your family and your community. If you’re not famous and feel that your life hasn’t caused any earthshaking or dimensional changes, then this info is for you.
Step One. Make a headline around what you spent most of your life doing. What are you most proud of? Was it your job, or raising kids, maybe it was your church or club work? Your headline could read “Mable Murphy, a Familiar Face on the office Switchboard, Dies at 98”
Step Two. Make a list of events (2 -3, keep it short) in the order of importance – prioritize. If your heading emphasized work, then “work” would be first on your list and so on and so on. You might want to start out with a statement like this “In the Forties, she was widely known and respected. Mable mastered the art of the manual exchange. Connecting telephone calls to one another was quite a feat and a skill that required an exhausting bit of memory and concentration.”
Step Three: Add the electrifying facts now. “She died on June 16, in Garden Grove, at 98. Her surviving husband, Angus Murphy, and her three children, Kelly, Patrick, and Ross, said the cause was simply, beautiful old age, with no complications. Mable Kelly Murphy was born on August 23, 1924 on the dining room table, with the help of the mid-wife, Sarah on the West side of Kansas City. She grew into a 5″4” gorgeous, red-head with freckles and a fiery personality. Her late father, Clarence Murphy, was a high school teacher at Hawthorn Blossom H.S., best known for his hunting and fishing skills at Lake of the Ozark and was a member of the Knights of Columbus. Catholic Church work occupied much of her mother’s time and the late Francis Murphy, homemaker, was always fun and full of energy. Mable’s Irish wake, with full body viewing, will be held at her son’s house. Ross says, “Celebrations with lots of food and drink will begin at 2:00 P.M. tomorrow. The family is requesting that donations be made out to her favorite charity: The United Service Organizations, Inc.”
You may want to include: City and state of other residences—grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s names and residences–Other family members (nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc.) and special friends– Special pets–Degrees and schools attended–Military service–Date of marriage–Personality traits and anecdotes–Where people should make a memorial contribution
Step Four: Take it to your local newspaper and get a price quote, along with any deadlines. (Altering the word content will alter the price) You will want it to print on a certain day, so that people can make arrangements to attend your wake or funeral or whatever you decide.
Step Five: Don’t wait – do it now. Place it and the price quote/deadlines info in a folder and give it to your oldest child or even a best friend, along with any other funeral, burial arrangements, or wills you’ve made.
Next, let’s talk about some horrible trends, and ways to avoid being sucked under. Remember, this is your obituary, so here are some great tips.
Don’t start with morbid thoughts like: peaceful-passing, other side, good-bye, loved-one, sorrow, sadness or that the family is announcing anything. Leave those to Stephen King. You lived life to the fullest, so focus on what you’ve done and accomplished.
Don’t go off on tangents about your spouse, kids, church, charities etc. Stay focused on you.
Don’t overdo the description of the funeral arrangements. You or someone might have spent a bundle, but you are more important than the arrangements.
Don’t over do it, but you might want to acknowledge certain people. Teachers, maids, guardians, caretakers, friends or mentors may have been wonderful, helping influences in your life.
If you are not the person writing the obituary, avoid saying “mom” or “dad.” If you’re doing the writing, don’t use “I” or “am”. Use their name or he/she, it just sounds more respectful.
Don’t glibly, off-the-cuff mention your deadly illness as a “courageous struggle” or as a “most painful experience.” Instead, you could write its name and briefly how you felt going through the phases. Be sensitive. Be honest. Be emotional. Be succinct.
No abbreviations. Many people do not understand them.
Don’t say “In lieu of flowers,” most people do not bring or buy funeral flowers. Instead, simply state you’d appreciate donations made to your favorite charity.
Don’t describe your wake to great lengths. Again, stay focused on you not what to wear, what dishes will be served, about drinks or dancing, or what celtic musicians to expect.
Don’t overdo the explanations of your “body” religious preparations or special clothing.
Here’s something else you need to think about . . . images and creativity. There really are no do’s or don’ts, you just need to let your imagination go wild.
Your photo. Oops! Do you have one that you like? Most of us feel one way inside ourselves and don’t come to terms with our age, until the mirror image stares back at us, right? You’ve got plenty of choices. You can just grab the latest photo and let it be. The look of old age isn’t shameful. This is what most people do; vanity no longer exists. But you are not locked into this habit, either.
Instead, you might want to submit to the newspaper a scenic picture of where you got married, or had your honeymoon, or where you want your ashes placed. Keep in mind when choosing the photo that it will be printed in black and white. Then, refer to the picture in the body of your writing.
The last idea is to present a photo of your hobby. The guitar you never were able to afford or your beautiful quilt creation might be perfect photos to present to the newspaper, just remember to reference the photo in the body of your writing.
In conclusion, you can take control in order to present the “true you.” It’s not too difficult, write your own obituary!