New Year’s resolution: Write your obit before you die

Posted: December 27, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized
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By Christopher Harper

As people consider resolutions for the coming year, I’d like to make a suggestion: Write down your life story before you die. In other words, do it now!

James R. Hagerty, an obituary writer for The Wall Street Journal, makes a strong case for writing your own obituary.  

“When it comes to money and real estate, most of us make careful arrangements for what will happen after we die. Why not take equal care of our stories, which can’t be retrieved once lost?” Hagerty muses. “Think of the stories you’ve heard your partner or parents tell a thousand times. They are precious. When someone dies, we need those stories—not in a vague, half-remembered, secondhand form but in the original version, with all the plot twists, nuances, and personal storytelling quirks. Your own words and insights are more illuminating than others’ eulogies and tributes.”

I had the opportunity to write a quasi-autobiography about a decade ago, which was a lot of fun. That book, Flyover Country, recounted the tales of my life and those of my fellow high school graduates from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I even made a few bucks from the publication.

Hagerty makes the following suggestions:

–Preserve your stories now while the memories are vivid.
–The best stories show what you have done, why, and how. Starting points include how you got on a career path; what you are trying to do with your life and how it works out; your biggest triumphs and failures, and what you have learned from them.
–Include the oddest, funniest, most wonderful, and awful things that have happened to you.

Hagerty suggests that people write their obituaries, making it easier for loved ones when the time comes. Writing a letter or an email to a friend or loved one is another way of putting one’s thoughts together. If someone doesn’t like to write, record one’s life stories.

For those needing help, software such as Storyworth or MemLife provides a template with questions and the option to create a book.

Hagerty has some cautionary notes. “Revealing too much about certain topics could hurt or offend loved ones. Life-story writers must consider what to leave out, particularly marital and family issues.

Make sure you organize those hundreds of photos you’ve taken over the years, including as much information as much about the dates, places, and people in the snapshots.

Whatever the case, it’s time to start recording those memories—not only for your family but for yourself.

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