My friend Cory alerted me to an article in the Wall Street Journal I found intriguing. A newspaperman for more than fifty years in Haverhill, Massachusetts, wrote what he called “probably the most important story of my life.” His obituary. Now, seventy-five-year-old Tom Vartabedian urges other people to not “leave it to chance” and have a family member omit a detail of primary importance to you.
For any journalist, the first professional writing he/she does is likely to be an obituary. I know I wrote my share of them when I started working for newspapers. I depended on information provided by family members and tried to make the obits as interesting as possible, but in terms of priority, these articles are usually at the bottom of the proverbial barrel.
So, why not write your own obituary? Doing so doesn’t have to be a morbid exercise. Make it fun. You don’t have to use it anytime soon. I’ve given this assignment before in classes, and people loved it, once they recovered from the initial shock. Writing your obituary forces you to review your life and decide on what details are most important to include.
That’s your assignment for this month: write your obituary and post it here. Then tell us about your experience writing it.
If you need a bit of motivation, read the article, Obituary Writing in the Selfie Age, which also includes a video, in the Wall Street Journal.