What do you want your obituary to say?

Something I never thought about until a few weeks ago, when I started writing obituaries for The News Herald…

Obits come to me every day by phone, fax, email and sometimes people come into the newspaper and I collaborate with them.

In an odd way, it’s an honor to write (or help write) a summary of the story of a person’s life. Their interests, accomplishments, employers and the loving families that they leave behind–or that have predeceased them.

When I started the job, I was nervous about grammar and punctuation. Readers of this blog will understand! I’m not the ‘punctuation princess’ and I often bend the rules of grammar, sentence structure, etc.

familyMy job might just drive my children crazy.

I’m reminded each day that there are no guarantees. I’ve written notices for infants, teenagers…all the way up to nearly 100 year olds. There’s no hiding from it. Anybody can pass away. At any time.

After a rough day last week, I told my children that I needed them to drive carefully. That I loved them too much, for them to be careless. They knew I was serious. They made me promise to be careful, as well.

My mother passed away when I was 20, after a three-year battle with cancer. And my mother lost her mother early as well. My Aunt had lost both of her parents by the time she was 16. Her husband lost his father when he was only a teenager.

Probably, this is why my family ‘gets’ it. We’ve always gotten along. We don’t argue over petty things. If we’re angry or hurt, we address it with each other quickly, then move on. To the important stuff. Being together. Laughing. Having fun.

I was raised by (and around) people who lost parents young, and I lost my mother young. And I think that’s where I learned my values. Values shared by my family.

I always thank people. (Even if I don’t like them!) Those who do me a kindness will be thanked, like it or not!! I always tell my children I love them. Daily. Still. Even though they are teenagers. I don’t want things to go unsaid. Even if my ways seem silly to others, I sleep better at night.

Which brings me back to my original thought.

What would be written about me?

She was ‘nice.’ (little family joke)

She was a terrible driver. Sang so badly, that even at 18 months old, her daughter begged her to stop. She did NOT let her daughter have a pet snake, but she never said no to dogs…and even a cat, though she took Allegra every day so the kids could keep the cat.

‘Things’ happened to her; torn meniscus while gardening, dislocated (and broken) fingers watching a track meet, heels regularly caught in metal stair grating sent her tripping through door to work, tended to spill diet coke on herself while driving her car, never used oven timer and often ‘forgot’ things were cooking…and cooking. Went from always being early, to NEVER being on time.

COULD NOT complete a white picket fence. Appropriate, as my life is not a ‘white picket fence’ kind of life…


What I would like people to say?

That I was kind, compassionate, that I always did my best. That I never forgot my priorities; children, family, friends, dogs. That I enjoyed each day. (Or most of them.)

Did this get you thinking?

What would you want your obituary to say?

What might it say?

13 thoughts on “What do you want your obituary to say?

  1. You forgot to say that you are a best friend a girl could have. One that would drop everthing to help her no matter what.

  2. Yep, the window is getting mighty short. Now that you have experience you can write mine. It wouldn’t take long I reckon. I might add that no father could be any more prouder than I am of YOU! You have done a fantastic job with my grandkids, and have weathered the storms that have come your way in a professional manner. Keep up the good work!!! Love Ya!

    • Thanks Dad…and you are wrong. It would take some doing to capture ‘you’ on paper. You are what I refer to as a ‘unique unit.’ (That’s a good thing!!) Always remember that I learned ‘who to be’ from you. Love you, too.

  3. Truly, you may have the best job you can have at a newspaper, and I say this as someone who’s been in the industry for 25 years. There are no other stories that are treasured and saved like an obituary is. I recently lost my grandmother, and when we were cleaning out some of her drawers, we came across her 20-year clipping my grandfather’s obituary. It was like finding a small stash of gold. It’s a privilege, what you’re doing, and it’s an honor to be trusted with the job! (Some of the best writing in my local newspaper is on the obit page, btw.) Great post.

    • Thank you so much Jennifer. You won’t think it ‘odd’ that I started out a bundle of nervous tension over commas and punctuation…but quickly moved to just wanting to ‘get it right’ one last time for grieving families. (Especially when I sit down with them and we work through it.)

  4. Simply stated your the BEST! Brimming to the tippy top with grace and dignity. A real treasure to be cherished. A wonderful sense of humor who knows life does not always play the journey within the fair guidelines but keeps on keeping on with a beautiful smile on your beautiful face! I’m just not sure the dogs would line up last in the priorities! He he Love you

  5. Beautiful post!! You are such a good writer(punctuation aside-lol) You are a special friend and I am lucky to know you. You are a treasure and those that have the benefit of you writing their obituary are blessed!

  6. If you had to do mine, you can just jot this down….. “its Stella, need we say more?!?!?” I do wonder though if you will have the nerve to ask the father at St. Cyprians to do my service after you write me up. As far as yours goes, something will have to be said about the sad chocolate cakes you will leave behind! Ha!

  7. I probably won’t ask if he is the same one that kicked you out of St. Cyprians…and just think of all the happy people who will actually GET a cake without me around…

    Now for you…”Stella looked really pretty in a crown, always thought it was a GOOD IDEA to get a dog(s), a wonderful, patient mother, with a quick wit, quirky/fun sense of humor and who is always there when her friends/family need her.”

Please leave a reply