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Writing Your Own Obituary
By Bill Hoagland
I have long been an advocate for the notion that everyone should write their own obituary (yes, preferably while they are still alive) rather than delegating it by default to their survivors after they are dead.
There are several reasons for this: first, the most accurate information for an obituary is likely to come from you, not your kids or grandkids; in fact, do your kids or grandkids even know where you born, who your parents were or (gulp) when you were born? If you were to ask them what they know about the “family tree”, you may be in for a shock. Not only do they not know—they might not want to know.
The second reason for writing your own obituary, in addition to an overriding interest in being reasonably accurate about your life, is that you can ensure that what you would like to be said about yourself will in fact be said. There is a third reason, which I will get to in a minute.
I read a lot of obituaries even if I don’t know the decedent. Generally, I enjoy them because as odd as it sounds, obituaries are positive—focusing, perhaps, on the good things about those who have passed on. But it is rare to see an obituary that is actually written by the decedent himself. One obituary that did appear to be written by the decedent is particularly memorable for me. After reciting an interesting and humorous review of his own life, this obituary concluded with the following statement: “And to the medical team in the emergency room at St.John’s Hospital, thanks for nothing. If you had known what to do, I would still be alive.” (Obviously, this guy had some post-mortem help with the last part of this obit by some apparently disgruntled family members.)
And this gets me to the third reason to write your own obituary. Unlike the above obituary, why not take this unique opportunity to specifically thank the people in your life who were special to you and for whom you will always be grateful. Seeing your words of appreciation in print may be something they will treasure forever, particularly if you are one of those folks who has difficulty expressing those thoughts while you are alive. It probably is more meaningful than you realize.
■ Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.