If you are a devoted reader of the local obituaries, it always feels like a bonus when a well-known person dies. The obits for prominent figures are usually pretty interesting – and if you want to read an example of a really good one, check out what ran when Ed Dague died in 2019. It captures his humanity in a way I never appreciated when I worked with him – and it also contains this stirring sentence, something that stopped me cold:
Born in Buffalo to a violent and physically abusive father, Ed did perhaps the most challenging thing possible – he broke the cycle of domestic abuse that he was raised under and became everything his father was not.
Wow, heavy shit. This isn’t a remembrance, it’s a peek into his soul — and all of us should be memorialized so well.
So, how do you get something like that? Obituaries are often composed in haste and under the worst possible circumstances, so why not do everyone a favor and write your own? Sit down, get it done, and make sure it’s in the hands of your family. Believe me you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
Pick some things that are speak to your character and beliefs, the things you held dear, and the qualities strangers would seldom see. It’s your chance to shine.
For all my preaching on this subject – this is not the first time I’ve written on this topic – I haven’t done a great job of following my own advice. I pulled out my own obit recently to see if I could whip up a final draft, but was unable to complete it. I think there’s a part of me that’s reluctant, as if this is a Twilight Zone episode where the man who finishes his obituary dies.
As if I need another excuse to not finish a piece of writing. My wife keeps saying, “You better not die before giving me something. You don’t want me writing it.”
True. Few of us will have an Eliza Hamilton to tell our story, so best do it yourself.