Thursday, August 12, 2010

Writing Your Own Obituary

Lots of journalists write their own obituaries and also keep obituaries on file of famous people, local or not--just in case. I actually started my own some time ago because I thought if I got hit by a truck, my children would write, "She was the daughter of Grandmother and Grandfather." So I thought to nail down the facts of my life for them. In doing so, I missed totally what I hoped was the spirit of my life--I'm hoping, when the time comes, they can fill in with some kind words about whatever they see as my attributes
But at the last session, my memoir class somehow got to talking  about obituaries, and I suggested that having each member write their obituary would be an appropriate exercise for tonight. Only a few completed it, and one wrote about how she never reads obituaries and hates funerals--off topic to my mind, but one class member said it revealed the writer's love of her family. Two others wrote eulogies--almost light-hearted pieces about how they saw their own lives. One had herself living until 125 and the other wrote "She went before she was ready . . . but she's living in a yellow cottage with roses on the other side." I was the only one who wrote an obit that followed the formula used by the newspaper--with great gaps, of course. But I got the facts of my birth, education, and career down so that when the day comes the kids will have that (stored in my computer). I tried for a lighthearted attempt at describing my life--mostly about meals enjoyed--but I hope the kids will embroider on that.
It was an interesting class--we only have two sessions left. Out of 8 remaining members, five have signed up for next fall. I'll teach eight sessions, one every week, so we'll be through by Thanksgiving. I'll also be teaching eight noon sessions for Human Resources at TCU. Who knows? Maybe I've found a second career.
But I think I'll start the next sessions off with the obituary exercise--what better way to put a memoir into order than to do an overview of your life?
Hats off to Elizabeth (Beth) Knudson, who has been my co-coordinator of this class and has kept records of who is bring food when and all that stuff. Next semester she will not be at the noon sessions at all and at the evening sessions only as she can find time. But my deep thanks to her for all her help, support, and vision--and for a longstanding friendship. Check out Beth's blogs at and

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