"It's counterintuitive, perhaps, but obituaries have next to nothing do with death and absolutely everything to do with life," said Margalit Fox, the New York Times' obituary writer for upwards of 15 years.
While obituaries serve a variety of purposes, like spreading a notice of death to loved ones, they should focus on the impact of a life above all else. Because most of us don't have a memoir or a biography, our obituaries paint the most vivid pictures of our professional accomplishments, relational ties, significant life events and essence of our personality.
Whether you are preparing your own obituary in advance, or you are writing an obituary for a deceased family member, it is important to acknowledge the positive, lasting impact of the life lost.
Where to begin
Most obituaries start with the basics, like the individual's name, age and place of residence at the time of their death.
Instead of simply stating that the individual died, there are several ways to soften the impact. These phrases include:
• passed away
• crossed over
• went to be with his/her Lord
• passed peacefully
• departed this earthly life
• entered into eternal rest
• earned his/her way into heaven
• left this world
• was called home
Include significant events and important accomplishments
Often listed chronologically, obituaries mention individuals' birthday and place of birth, details about spouse and date of marriage, as well as significant educational and professional accomplishments.
Paint a picture of a life well-lived
In addition, acknowledge the specific contributions and designations the person made in life. It is also important to capture the essence of their personality. According to Catherine Garcia, a seasoned obituary writer, "When done right, obituaries have a way of making even the most ordinary person seem interesting."
Along with naming the family members who preceded the individual in death, as well as their survivors, the obituary should express the impact of their life and the pain of their loss. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to convey their character through the tone of your writing. For instance, if the deceased was popular for being funny, it would not be inappropriate to write the obituary in a lighthearted tone. Additionally, including a a sentence that illustrates a person's passions, like a cook's favorite recipe, can succinctly embody important aspects of their personality.
Announce memorial information
The best place to mention visitation, burial, funeral and memorial service details is through one or two sentences toward the end of the obituary. Additionally, many individuals list whether the deceased should be honored with flowers or charitable donations.
Finally, include a heartfelt message
If desired, you can include a special message from a loved one, a statement thanking medical staff, or a short prayer or quote as the last line in the obituary.
For a simple, complementary obituary template, click here.
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