Self-Written Obituaries Help Set the Record Straight
Writing your own obituary can be an important act of service to your immediate family, and a meaningful contribution to posterity. To the genealogist, a well-written, factually accurate obituary is an invaluable resource for documenting a family’s history. Your willingness to take an active role in writing your own obituary can ensure that your life story remains intact for future generations.
Obituaries are typically written in haste after a person has passed away. The writer is often a grieving loved one or a family friend who discovers too late that they don’t know as much of the pertinent details about the deceased person as they thought. There have been situations when the obituary writer had trouble recalling a birthplace, a birth date, and even the real name of the deceased person’s sibling because the nickname was all they ever knew. In a pinch and without facts, the writer may ‘guess’ at some of the obituary details. Consequently, inaccuracies and omissions in what is written for funeral programs and newspapers can also show up in historical records.
Fortunately, as people are becoming less squeamish about preparing end-of-life documents, and more eager to end the cycle of misinformation in their family history, they are stepping up and drafting their own obituaries. Workshops on auto-obituaries, also known as ‘selfie’ obituaries, are being held at churches, family reunions and community centers to meet the increasing interest that people have in preparing drafts of their final life stories.
Along with assuring that your auto-obituary is factual, there are other benefits to writing it yourself. You can:
- Share life lessons.
- Let future generations know how you want to be remembered.
- Help make it easier for your loved ones to tell your story how you want it to be told.
“It gave me a chance to write what I wanted to say about my life,” says Darlene Fluker, a Texas-based designer who attended an obituary writing workshop at her place of worship. “I also wanted to take that burden away from my family,”
Whether you choose to draft your obituary in a traditional format, or do something more creative like an essay, it is always helpful to include as much personal detail as you can for historical purposes. These details include:
- Your full name
- Birth date
- City/state of residence
- Military service
- Religious or spiritual affiliation
- Names and proper of relatives (primarily immediate family members) and other special friends that you care to mention.
- Other details, such as age, date of death, funeral arrangements, will be provided by whomever completes the final version your auto-obituary on your behalf.
As much as factual accuracy matters, the act of writing out your history can mean more than dwelling on the facts of your past. Engaging in this activity also represents a chance to consider your life in the present. If you aren’t happy with what you see on paper, consider it an opportunity to make changes now that can lead to an even brighter future.
For more information and inspiration, check out these resources:
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