“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. “ — Mahatma Gandhi
The purpose of the quote above from India’s iconic Father of Independence and Peace is to urge you to shape your legacy as you want it to be.
As professional obituary — i.e. legacy — writers, we @ neverforget.cloud cannot agree more with the Mahatma.
For the purpose of this article, we humbly add to Gandhi’s wisdom: Don’t let others choose the words of your obituary. Let your acts and legacy pen it instead.
Obituaries help spread the word that someone has died. They commemorate the life and let others know when and where services will be held.
Whether an obituary is for you or a loved one, make it interesting. Let the obituary reflect the personality and events that made your loved one’s life unique. Give the world a glimpse of how the person touched the lives of others.
Jim Nicholson, an award-winning obituary writer, said that what his obits were doing was “celebrating life, not death. Death is incidental to the story. If you took the phrase ‘died on Tuesday’ out of the story, it would be a feature. It would not be an obituary. It would be a human-interest feature about a hell of a nice guy or girl.”
Obituaries are usually sent to the deceased’s local newspapers, but you may want the notice to appear in other publications as well. You may consider the local papers in towns where the deceased once lived, or his or her hometown. Trade journals or association newsletters may also have an interest in publishing the obituary.
Obituaries can also serve as a historical record for purposes of genealogy and tracing family history. For this purpose, consider including a mother’s maiden name, and biological parents as well as step parents. Nieces and nephews might also be listed. Whether to list a divorced spouse’s name is a matter to be determined by the surviving family. Some families choose to recognize a divorced spouse by listing her/him as the mother/father of the deceased’s children.
Writing your own obituary is not easy.
Few people can be objective enough to write their own. And, when writing an obituary for a deceased family member or friend, it’s difficult to be accurate and thorough — especially when grieving.
Thinking about your death is moving.
But it’s a great path to reconnect with the imprint you want to leave once you say goodbye for the last time.
So, go on …. write your own obituary
We use this exercise in some of our change leadership workshops.
But don’t take yourself too seriously. If you are humorous, let your epitaph be fun also.
Use the following template:
Start by writing your name the way you’d like it to look on your tombstone.
In one line, how did you make the world a better place? Be concise. The more focused, the more honest you’ll be with yourself.
Write down how people will remember you. Avoid pompous language. Stick to the tone and words that regular people would use — especially those who know you well. The why is essential (once again, you don’t need the full laundry list).
The next part requires more introspection. Look yourself into the mirror and answer this unfiltered: “who was the real you?” Not your masks or costumes, not your job or titles or roles. What was your essence? What made you unique?
Saying ‘yes’ is easy. What we say ‘no’ to defines who we really are. Which was in your case? What are the ‘temptations,’ distractions, or possibilities that you said ‘no’ to because they would derail you from achieving your goals?
Who will miss you the most? This seems easy, but it’s not. The answer is not about what you wish, but trying to understand who will really miss. A lot of people will for sure. But who were those people to whom you meant something special? Once again, avoid judging yourself. Being honest is what makes this exercise meaningful.
Now it’s time to be creative. The previous steps provided the background; now it’s time to bring it your epitaph to life. Write down in one or two paragraphs the words that you would love someone to say about you once you departed. This is the most critical part of the exercise. Connect with your true essence, not your vanity.
Also consider including:
- Family members including spouse, children and grandchildren
- Special people in the life of the deceased
- Significant events and dates
- Important activities
- Favorite hobbies, beliefs, or things that were important to the deceased.
- You may also want to include a photo.
Go ahead, do it!
- Adapted from funeralwise.com, legacy.com and other sources
- Banner image from huffpost.com