IF I DIED TODAY — Obituaries — What Will Yours Say?
People who are fully engaged in living their lives tend to overlook their own life story. Think about it…while so many of us are busy doing what we do everyday, we seldom pause to think about what it all means in that ‘big picture.’ We often discount our own achievements, accomplishments, and basic significance in life. Most of us would not be comfortable ‘tooting their own horn.’ I sure was in an awkward spot, recently, when I was asked to provide a brief biography for my editor, to be used for a social media web page they were creating as a companion for the magazine I write for.
I’ve never been arrogant or ego-filled. I tend to have self-esteem issues — been that way all of my life. I typically discount my so-called good qualities; instead I am usually focused on my flaws and short-comings when I try to sum myself up. It took a long time to come up with something acceptable to submit.
Have you ever thought to do this for yourself? I want to gently remind you that death is an inextricable part of life. All things that are born, shall cease living someday. No mortal has gotten out alive and come back to tell about it, unfortunately. It is highly doubtful that you will be that mortal.
I spent a good chunk of time last weekend trying to craft a fitting obituary for a peer, who was a long-time funeral home owner. He had reached his mid-eighties, finally succumbing to a long-time decline in health. He’d had lived a long life and done much in his time. It was a task which required a summary of all of those years, stated in the most compact and complete way possible. It needed to fit in a small space. I found the task daunting.
I’d had the privilege to go from being a no-nothing greenhorn who performed house removals and transported bodies to ultimately earning the man’s confidence and trust as a knowledgeable and skilled peer. He was of the old school way…a small town and rural community undertaker. He’d dedicated 60 years to his calling.
He was stubborn about the way he stuck to his traditions— and the younger folks in the business often regarded him as a crotchety old geezer, often missing the gifts of what wisdom they could have taken from knowing and working with him. Some accused him of being a nit-picker and too demanding. I considered him a mentor. What he showed me or demanded of me, or shared with me…all of it helped to shape my experience as I endeavored to learn the trade.
He was a nit-picker. He was demanding. Why? Because he wanted to serve his families correctly and with all details properly handled. He was serious about his duty to care for the dead and the grieving. That’s everything in the eyes of a good funeral director. I was truly proud when I’d reached a point that he would ONLY speak directly with me when he needed a particular detail handled. I earned his trust and respect…I delivered what he needed, which was not usually such an easy thing to be able to do. If I told him I would, I did. He especially trusted me with the worst kinds of tasks…traumatic deaths with need for extensive reconstruction and restorative work in order to allow for viewing.
I struggled to understand how a life-long funeral director could have left this world without a basic funeral plan…at least an obituary sketched out or written down. To be asked the favor of my assistance, was a compliment. I wrote from the perspective I knew, and the family was pleased. They felt it was an obituary which summarized him, his ethic, and his life as succinctly as an obit could; obits are merely a death notice with a general bio, not full accounts of our lives.
As funeral directors, or traditional undertakers, such as he truly could be termed, who deal with death every day, we understand the importance and responsibility of planning our final affairs. We gently preach, but in this case, did not practice.
I have had my own obituary written and tucked away for quite some time, now. I wanted to make it easier for my girls. I wrote down what I’d like it to say, about what I’d managed to do with my lifetime. They are free to add whatever they’d like, when that time comes.
OTHERWISE, leaving it to someone else may result in…something like this, which fortunately was written by a daughter who had a sense of humor as she told others of her dad:
…it went viral and is worth a read!
What would you like to see in the snapshot written of your full and significant life? Share the story with a brief written life summary of yourself, then put it away with insurance policies, wills, and other vital papers. Once this task is undertaken, there will be peace that it has been done.
This post is part of my series, ‘IF I DIED TODAY.’ Posts in the series are presented with the hope that we can prepare ourselves for our own eventual end-of-life issues before the end comes; so that we may have peace of mind for ourselves and our loved ones may be undistracted by our personal worries. Let’s be allowed to enjoy the final days together, to the fullest.
Such preparation now frees us in many ways, from the very anxiety death creates in us. Let’s start the conversation and quell our fear.
©2014,Colleen S. Thompson.