Tonight, I used my writing skills to create a draft of my brother's obituary. It starts out simply enough: ...passed away in Pontiac, Michigan on Sunday, January 8, 2006 at the age of 41. The rest has been more difficult to write, mostly because it's been hard to figure out what to say. I can't be untruthful about his life but there is a certain respectful and proper way to write an obituary. Because of the way things have been, it's hard for anyone in my family to really know who he was over the past few years. Hobbies? Interests? Accomplishments? Hmm.

So, of course, I googled, "How to Write an Obituary." I sort through a few different web pages. I find out that I can buy an obituary writing download for $4.99.

Um, no thanks.

Then, I poked around the New York Times obituary section. I scroll through a few and don't see any that really are what I need but it gives me a feel for the language. And, I'm inspired. By golly, who knew so many candidates for sainthood lived in NYC?

Next, I get to this page that suggests that people should write their own obituaries so they can represent themselves to the world in the way they want. I find this interesting because it's flipping the script and having your final say on how you want the world to see you, instead of letting others have that last word.

We’ve all seen an example of this in the past week with the furor over this A Million Little Pieces book –even though I was never interested in reading it despite Queen Oprah’s seal of approval. This guy wrote his memoir and a memoir is, for all intents and purposes, a super-long obituary on your life up to that point. He’s writing about his experiences being an addict. Did he lie? Did he exaggerate? Hmm…isn’t that what most addicts do? And speaking of exaggeration, I’ve read that Orlando Bloom may play Frey in the film version. I’m not sure what drugs got injected into a studio exec but I’ve seen pictures of Frey and he’s nowhere near looking like Orlando Bloom.

I can’t help but think how most of us would be tempted to over-exaggerate or bend and flex the truth if we were to write a memoir. How many of us would be tempted to do the same if we were writing our own obituaries? And, is this same potential over-exaggeration and truth-bend temptation eliminated by relatives writing the obituary instead? I mean, everyone’s obituary reads, “Loving father. Devoted sister. Adored cousin.” Hmm. Yep.

My “pro”for self-scripting the obituary is that in theory, it could be an interesting way to make sure you are keeping yourself on track with personal goals. For example, my obituary could say, "Liz, three-time New York Times best-selling author of..."

Or not.

It's up to me.


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