If you haven’t struggled through the ordeal of writing an obituary for a family member or friend, then you are either very young or extremely lucky.
Many of us have felt relatively relaxed and smug as we advance beyond our 60’s, thinking we’ll live to be 100…until the ‘Rona virus took America by surprise. The threat of death surrounds us, young and old. Not to be morbid or predictive about our early demises, but I think we need to be prepared for the unexpected.
I say, it’s time for us to write our own obituaries. Now!
Funny. As a high school English teacher, I included a unit on obituary-writing, using the exercise as a way to compel students to think about their futures and take control over their lives. Remember the old saying: If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up someplace else? This question guided the lesson. (FYI, I required every student to survive to a ripe old age…no early deaths and short obituaries allowed!)
I’ve taken the lead in composing three obits: My father’s, my mother’s, and my brother-in-law’s. The easiest to write was Dad’s, because, as an Army officer, he’d drafted an obituary and updated it through the years. It was a ‘listing’ document, indicating my father’s ranks advancements, assignments, and accomplishments, mostly in his Army and sales careers. In the final composition, my family added the softer aspects of my father, as family man and member of the community. I wish we would have asked him what to include about those parts of his life.
I ask: Why make your relatives and friends shoulder the burden of writing your obituary? Why not produce a draft of it now (even an outline will do), place it in an obvious location, and provide enormous relief to the person designated to compose the newspaper version of your life? Study some newspaper obituaries, especially the ones from the New York Times. Find an approach that resonates for you.
With this blog entry, I commit to writing mine. Who among you will join me in this challenge?