Why everyone should write their own obituary

Why everyone(ˈevrēˌwən) should write their own obituary(ōˈbiCHəˌwerē)

By Penny(ˈpenē) Lipsett

At a recent annual(ˈanyo͞oəl) gathering, I mentioned to guests at my end of the dinner table that I’d written an obituary that day. My own. The woman across from me quickly quipped(kwip): “Too much time on your hands?”

The man next to me was good enough to ask me why. “For several reasons,” I said. First, writing the final few lines to describe a life is a chore(CHôr) that often falls to some poor soul(sōl) at the last moment. Said soul needs to check dates and other facts as the newspaper deadline looms(lo͞om). It usually means, too, a formulaic(ˌfôrmyəˈlāik) approach(əˈprōCH) listing all the living and deceased(diˈsēst) relatives(ˈrelətiv), hobbies(ˈhäbē) and sometimes societal(səˈsīitl) recognition(ˌrekigˈniSHən). I offered that I want some editorial(ˌediˈtôrēəl) control over what is written about me and any so-called accomplishments(əˈkämpliSHmənt). A linear(ˈlinēər) check list is not what I have in mind.

The initial(iˈniSHəl) draft was fewer than 200 words and my first 43 years were covered in just five sentences; birth, hometown, education – everything. I only included what I thought was important. On the second go around, I expanded the bit about my first job in Ottawa(ˈätəwə) to more than a phrase(frāz) because I’d worked on Parliament(ˈpärləmənt) Hill during the first Trudeau(tro͞oˈdō) government, and those five years had a huge impact on me. It was a heady(ˈhedē) privilege(ˈpriv(ə)lij) to be involved in politics(ˈpäləˌtiks) at that time. These kinds of jobs are all-consuming and I ended up with great lifelong friends who make up an almost family-like tribe(trīb). They were formative(ˈfôrmətiv) years.