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Kendal at Oberlin Blog

Why Write Your Own Obituary

Posted by Molly Kavanaugh on Sep 14, 2015 2:00:18 PM

Written By: Molly Kavanaugh

A Spokane grandmother wanted to have the last word.

Turn off the electronics, take yourself or a kid out for ice cream and talk about their hopes and dreams.

A Salt Lake scientist had a final confession to make.

As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June, 1971.

A North Dakota man just wanted it simple.     

Doug Died.

 

Whether it’s long or short, funny or inspirational, writing your own obituary can be a gift to yourself and your loved ones. The website legacy.com, which tracks and compiles obituaries, has a special section dedicated to self-written obituaries.

Be Remembered How You Want to Be

"For some people, writing their own obituary is an important part of coming to terms with the fact that their lives are coming to an end," says company spokeswoman Hayes Ferguson. "For others, it's a way to make sure they are remembered the way they want to be remembered."

Making sure the information and details about your life are accurate is one of the benefits of writing your obit. But equally important, you can select the milestones, accomplishments and experiences that YOU cherish, rather than leaving it to a grieving relative or a funeral home employee.  

Raised in the segregated south, teacher Martha Jimmar Christmas wrote that she was blessed to have recruited more than 3,000 students from St. Louis to attend her alma mater, Alabama A&M University. She was also proud of the man she married in 1962.

“My husband was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement serving as one of the first three black policemen hired and fired after refusing to arrest only black citizens,” she continued.

A 54-year-old Florida woman wanted to write her own obit to help others avoid a painful, premature death caused by smoking cigarettes.

“Everyone always says that I do things ‘my way,’ so, I've written my own obituary in hopes of reaching at least one person to say that cigarettes are not worth the pain you put your family through or the horrendous pain you put your body through,” wrote Victoria Lee Pope.

There are other reasons why writing your obituary can be valuable, writes Alan Gelb, author of the book, “Having the Last Say: Capturing your Legacy in One Small Story.”

“Your obituary can become a precious gift for those in your life who you leave behind. It can help them to know you better and to understand you better. And, in so doing, they can understand themselves better,” he writes on Next Avenue.

 

Getting Started with Writing Your Own Obituary

If you need help getting started, check out life review and reflection books at your library or bookstore. StoryCorps, a national oral history project, has published a list of great questions that can trigger such memories, such as:

  • How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?

  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

  • What traditions have been passed down in your family?

 

A professional writer can also be of assistance. Contact the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, an “organization created for folks who write about the dead for a living,’ which lists freelance writers on its member directory.  

And, when you complete your obituary, make sure to leave copies with family members or whoever will be in charge of your funeral with instructions on where you want it published and distributed.

ABCs of Lifelong Learning Opportunities

 

Written By: Molly Kavanaugh

Topics: Active Lifestyle

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