Writing your own obituary

It’s a popular assignment in journalism and English classes – write your own obituary.  And life coaches sometimes suggest writing your own obit as a way to figure out how you want to live your life. By starting at the end product – what you want your obituary to say – you can start thinking about what you need to do in life to accomplish your goals. 

For some people, writing their own obituary is an important part of coming to terms with the fact that their lives are coming to an end (either due to terminal illness or simply old age).  For others, it’s a way to make sure they are remembered the way they want to be remembered.

Legacy.com’s newspaper partners publish dozens of self-written obituaries each month.  If you are thinking of writing your obituary, here are some examples for inspiration:

~Ken Akers’ self-written obituary offers a light-hearted look at his life: “Ken Akers kicked the bucket on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at his home in Charlotte, N.C. He was old. So old he remembered black and white television, gas for 10 cents a gallon and Mickey Mantle’s rookie season…Akers was a hopeless romantic and a hapless husband. He was married twice. Neither marriage produced any children or any particularly fond memories.” [Read more in Charlotte Observer]

~Martha Jimmar Christmas’s obituary is both beautifully written and inspirational: “At the age of 12, I was baptized in the southern African-American tradition. In a creek with clear water running over rocks, birds singing flying overheard and beautiful shade trees as saints stood on the bank praising God.” Raised in the segregated south, among Mrs. Christmas’s many accomplishments was recruiting more than 3,000 students from St. Louis to attend Alabama A&M University. [Read more in Florence Times Daily]

~Victoria Lee Pope passed away from lung cancer at age 54. She chose to write her own obituary to try to prevent others from the same fate: “I’ve written my own obituary in hopes of reaching at least one person to say that cigarettes are not worth the pain you put your family through or the horrendous pain you put your body through. The last couple of years were spent having weekly treatments and painful procedures. Instead of my last days being peaceful, they are spent gasping for breath…” [Read more in Northwest Florida Daily News]

~Rex L. Burghduff’s obituary provides a glimpse of historical events and their impact on his family: “I was born Oct. 26, 1934, at Camp Crook to Edith Mae (Turbiville) and Kenneth Lee Burghduff during the dry depressed years of the Dirty Thirties. We saw a lot of hard up years living in sheep wagons, herding sheep, driving horses, and moving from place to place with my parents, myself, my sister, Alice, two years younger, and my brother, Kenny, four years younger. Then came the ’40s, World War II, more tough and sad times. But the drought broke and we had grass and hay for the livestock…” [Read more in Rapid City Journal]

~Sally Fairchild chose to write her own obituary to make sure it said what she wanted it to say. As she explains, “Having always felt atypical, I’ve elected to write my own obituary. I decided than in as much as I had to pay for this notice, it should include what was important to me. From the bumps in the road to the humble triumphs, my life was a celebration.” [Read more in Florida Today]

~”Hi, my name is Charlie Johnson and I’m an alcoholic.” Charles R. Johnson caught our attention with this unusual start to an obituary. He goes on to include these moving comments about his wife: “I met the love of my life, Cindy, on August 17, 1984, and we’ve been together, and on the same page, ever since. She’ll probably try to be strong and say she’s fine, but she’s not. She was the feeler to my thinker personality trait, and she’ll need a lot of support to get through this.” [Read more in Houston Chronicle]

If you choose to write your own obituary, be sure to send copies to your immediate family so that they have it available when you pass away. For tips on writing an obituary, see our previous post, “How to write an obituary.”

About Katie

I joined Legacy.com in 2002 as a part-time content screener and now serve as Director of Operations, overseeing Legacy’s day-to-day operations (Guest Book screening, obituary processing, customer service, and client service). I grew up in California, the daughter of a psychologist and a minister. My parents instilled in me the importance of listening to and caring about others. One of the things I appreciate most about working at Legacy.com is that I am able to have a small part in easing people's pain during one of the most difficult times in their lives. In my life outside of Legacy, I enjoy baking treats (and bringing them to the office to share), playing the piano, reading, taking pictures, tending to our vegetable & herb gardens, trying out new restaurants and foods, spending time with my husband, Chuck (whom I met at Legacy) and our kids, Brett Jr. & Josie, and playing with our hound dogs, Mugsy and Bo Jangles.
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