Tips for Senior Citizens – Obituary Writing 101
No senior citizen with a lick of sense should leave the writing of their obituary to their damned relatives. When the time comes, your family will be far too consumed with grief and preoccupied with the contents of your will to focus on writing you the fitting tribute you deserve.
Leave it to chance and you’ll end up with some off-the-rack, saccharine-coated, blandly benign recap of your life. Face facts, for most folks this will be your first mention in the local newspapers. Now is your time to shine, damn it.
I say, write it yourself. It’s not difficult – an obituary follows a pretty simple formula:
- A Nice Photo
- The Announcement
- Family Crap
- Your Life in 150 Words or Less
- Service Details
- A Fitting Summation
This edition of “Obituary Writing 101” will focus on the first three items on that list:
A Nice Photo
I strongly recommend including a photo. It draws attention to your death and helps set you apart from the other stiffs littering the obituary pages. But be forewarned, making the proper selection can be challenging indeed.
If you include a “young” photo in your obituary, it makes it seem like you were embarrassed of your life after the age of 40 and ashamed of your golden years. If you include an “old” photo, it looks like you spent your whole time on earth with blotchy skin, thinning hair, an unflattering scowl and thick spectacles. It’s a conundrum.
That’s why I suggest you include a black and white photo of your corpse. It’s plucky, original and pretty much tells it as it is. And, if nothing else, it’s a damned sure to draw a crowd.
This section usually contains your name, age, the date of your death and the cause of your death. Sure, it may seem like pretty standard fare but you still want to choose your words carefully. I don’t want my obit to say something moronic like I died “peacefully,” “quietly” or “suddenly.” I want it to say that I died after a protracted battle against the stupidity of others.
I also intend to augment my name slightly to further set me apart from the herd. My obituary will identify me as Colonel Donald Mills. (I was never really a Colonel but neither was Harland Sanders and that didn’t stop him). I would have selected General Mills but that would just cause confusion.
I further recommend against including a cause of death. I’m in my 80’s for Christ sake and I think we can all safely assume I died from old age and not sexual misadventure or a skydiving accident. However, a little mystery is a good thing and if people want to speculate – who am I to object.
Mix it up, make it punchy and don’t worry about sticking to the facts. You’re dead – no one is going to call you on it.
This is where you name everyone you’re survived by and predeceased by. Personally, I don’t see the value of this section at all. It’s boring as Hell (the damn things read like those tiresome “begat” sections of the Bible) and the only people who peruse it are the ones checking to see if they were mentioned.
For me, I won’t be including a list of people I am “survived by.” Most of the relatives I liked are already dead and the rest should damn well know who they are. Plus, at 30 cents a word it’s a costly added expense.
Beyond a mention of my beloved Aggie, I won’t be including the names of any folks I am predeceased by either. By definition – they’re dead. And last time I checked, the dead don’t read newspapers. At least, not the obituaries.
In the next edition of Obituary Writing 101 – summarizing your life in 150 words or less, drafting the service details and writing a fitting summation.
For me, the last line in my obituary will remind any damned young person planning to attend the celebration of my life that there will be a strict “No shoes, No shirt, No memorial service” policy in effect.