Those dreaded three paragraphs: Not only do they mean you are dead, those three obituary paragraphs mean somebody tried to condense your life into a short collection of facts, with a few dates mixed in.
And when half of those paragraphs are made of the names of those who survived you, you’re just downright shortchanged.
Some people maybe get six or eight or 10 paragraphs in their obituaries, but how could even that ever be considered an overview of an entire life?
Sure they can put in the year you were born, but where is it written about the first time you fell in love? Maybe they can list your career or your community service, but how will people know how you felt when you first saw the moon from the other side of the world?
Life is more than a series of dates and a list of the schools you finished.
It’s what you learned, what you wished you’d done better, what you didn’t have time to finish. It’s how you loved, what you did for fun, when you were the very most happy.
It’s a mishmash of decisions and difficulties, of balancing and dealing with, of reaching and of figuring out.
Here’s what I love to see in obituaries:
She never stopped exploring.
He always made those around him feel good about themselves.
She never met a person she didn’t find fascinating.
He would get a tear in his eye over a sunset sky.
I suppose by the time somebody’s writing your obituary, you probably won’t care much what’s in it anymore. But it might be a good idea to think about it while you’re living and still have a chance to affect it.
So everybody grab a piece of paper. Write down what the world means to you and what you want to mean to the world.
Write down about your very best moment, your very funnest day, your very greatest lesson.
Write down what you are making your gift to the world.
Maybe no one will read it in the paper, but maybe it will help you to know what you have done and yet want to do.
“I hear and I forget,” said the Chinese proverb, as quoted recently in Writers’ Guide. “I see and I remember, I write and I understand.”
Writing and understanding is good, especially when it comes to purposefully plotting a life well lived.
Here’s a bit of mine:
Everyone she could meet, she met. Everywhere she could go, she went. Everything she could do, she did.
A new year is beginning, a new chance to live the life we want to remember and be remembered for.
Write it the way you want it to be written. Then live it so that those left behind will have no choice but to say you did it.
And then, just in case they’re not very observant, or in case you didn’t quite accomplish every last thing on your list, give them a written copy too.
That way they’ll know how hard you tried.