Write your obituary

Death is a reality. But one that most of us don’t want to think or talk about very often.
My first experience with death was an all-night vigil in the parlour of Great Uncle Dave’s house when Great Aunt Annie was dying.
I must have been about 10 or 12 years old as Aunt Annie’s extended family sat and talked in hushed whispers. And we all went into her bedroom one by one to say good-bye.
Then, as the day was dawning, Uncle Dave came out and said only a simple sentence, “She’s gone.”
More than a decade later, I was working in a church publishing house when early one Sunday morning the phone rang. My 18-year-old cousin, Norbert, had been killed–instantly.
Norbert, who was driving a motorcycle, had been killed by two racing cars. As the cars raced up the brow of the hill toward him, Norbert didn’t have a chance.
Whether you die with your family around you or die unexpectedly, you always leave a grieving family.
No wonder we find it hard to talk about end-of-life issues.
Last week, my daughter and I had a conversation about getting rid of all my neatly-stored “clutter.” And she said, “Don’t worry about it. Just don’t go downstairs!”
“But if I don’t get rid of it now, you’ll have to deal with it later when you’re grieving,” I replied.
“That’s the least of my worries,” said my daughter. “If you want to do something that would really help with my grieving process, write your own life sketch!”
She went on to say that she wouldn’t know where to start. And she thinks everyone, no matter their age or health, should write their own obituaries.
My husband has written a 175-page memoir from birth until age 43. Although my daughter has read it, how could she possibly shorten it into an obituary?
And what about the rest of his life?
As a result, I have been thinking about my life sketch. What would I say?
Would I write about the fabulous place I grew up, in the midst of lakes and forests, surrounded by caring extended family and fun-loving neighbours? And about the wonderful experiences I had living in five states and two Canadian provinces as an adult.
Or would I define myself by career? Teacher, writer, stay-at-home mom, mental health public relations director, columnist.
Or how about the important people in my life? My husband, my children, my brother and sister-in-law, my nieces and nephews, my wonderful parents, the only grandmother I knew, special friends.
There are so many facets to a person’s life.
Think about your own life. What would you want people to know about you? What would you want them to remember?
Think back–way back. Where did you grow up? Did you move frequently? What school experiences were special?
What friends did you have? What people have shaped your life and still are important?
What unusual things have you done that most people don’t know about? Have you served abroad?
You take it from here!
Writing your life sketch is a wonderful way to celebrate your life experiences. And a marvelous gift to leave for your grieving family in the future.

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