Sunday, September 6, 2015

Writing My Own Obituary

I notice more and more, how shall I put it, dead people have pre-written their own obituaries. This may be a morbid subject for some, but when you get to be my age, you do know what is coming and you know it could be any time, any minute, really. So why not write your own? The web provides lots of help. Be careful about who sees them though. Some pre-written obits, inadvertently, have been published before their “due date.”

It’s not like when I was in my thirties or forties and death was some far off thing in the future, not seeming very real at all. It’s here and it could be now. It becomes more of a reality as I go to many funerals of friends and relatives. Reading their obituaries is what put the fire under my feet to think about what my own might say. Or what I would like my own to say. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had some things to do if I wanted my obit to be anywhere near what I was thinking of writing. Kind, generous, and good-natured might take a little work. A few more awards and honors might be possible before the end. I haven’t had many of those since my school days.

The pre-prepared obits by the deceased seem so much more personable than the ones that are formatted, rote really, and hurriedly done to get into the newspaper. Not that I think loved ones can’t write a good obit, but it is a stressful time, with a deadline (pardon the pun), and in my opinion, anything that can alleviate some stress would be a good thing. And who knows me better than me? This site has it all, and this one offers a course if you’d like to make writing obits part of your life’s work.

I fancy myself a writer and came up with a few “rules” for writing my own obit:

  • Define my death and put some humor in it.

  • Focus on life and don’t be boring. Show, don’t tell.

  • Use all the senses while answering those W’s.

  • Don’t be too wordy, no more than 500, but no less than 150.

  • Include a 3 or 6-word summary near the end to make it memorable.

  • Ask relatives for input…at least make them feel included.

I’m not sure all of these will work, especially answering the W’s. Some of those may need blank spaces. After all, how can I know the where, why, and when, but I can write the lead. The others seem doable.

In the flowers or donations area, how about planting a little flower or bush or tree in a yard in my memory, or visit an older acquaintance not seen for awhile, or do something nice for a stranger in lieu of.

I belong to a “writing our life history” group, and they are my favorite outing of the month. We share stories, no critiquing, just lots of fun. I think I’ll try my obit out on them, once I’ve written it, that is.