This Week’s Task – The Obituary

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Overwhelmed, challenged, somewhat paralyzed – all feelings I’m struggling with as I labor to draft my mother’s obituary.

How do you sum up someone’s life in 300 – 500 words or less? The task of being factual and still descriptive seems not only challenging but somewhat unfair to the one who has no voice in the matter.

I pealed through online suggestions. Who knew there were rules and basic etiquette to writing an obituary. Once again, I’m faced with the blaring reality that one day someone will have to do this for me.

The examples were fairly generic. The deceased was usually spoken of favorably. Unless a tragedy or illness was to blame, their passing was described as “peaceful”. Along with a few sentences listing achievements or hobbies, the articles were merely simple anecdotal summaries.

I learned our one final published epitaph is nothing more than a short tidy biographical essay with many missing pieces.

We don’t read about the disappointments, failures or tragedies the person encountered over their lifetime, even though they’re usually the very episodes that shape us into who we are. Don’t you think those facts would be the most interesting to read?

How different an obituary would be if the lists were of our personal scars rather than our accomplishments or snippets of our ordinary days. It seems a shame to scan the peaks and miss the seemingly mundane.

We live in a culture that elevates success, especially after someone is gone. The longer our list of degrees and achievements the more notable we are. And when we’re gone, our failures are usually forgotten or downplayed.

Have you ever imagined writing your own obituary now so someone else doesn’t have to do it for you? In some respects, that’s exactly what we’re doing – every single day.

What a different scenario we’ll encounter when we cross from this life to our next. Not one minute will be missing from the perfect records kept on our behalf.

So what do you want said of you? With this – again, I feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped and paralyzed. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting my life to matter – to be more than a simple statement lost somewhere in a newspaper or public record.

Today I choose to believe the truth:

The truth about who I am.

I was fearfully crafted and not one minute of my life is hidden from God. Psalm 139

The truth about where I’m going.

I will revisit every minute of my life when I leave this life for the next. Romans 14

The truth about what really matters.

Like Jesus, my scars will be turned into marks of beauty. John 20


THIS WEEK’S TASK – believe the truth and write a rich narrative for the story of our life, one we’ll be proud to re-read over and over again.

18 replies on “This Week’s Task – The Obituary”

  1. My heart goes out to you. This must be a very difficult road to walk. I can only imagine… peace to you and your family.

    1. Thank you Joy. Yes, it’s difficult and a different process for each of us to go through. I will never forget the precious time my sister, brother and I had with our mom during her last week of life. I think it helped to shape how we’re facing our days now.

  2. I was always a little embarrassed to admit I enjoy reading obituaries. Some are better written than others but they definitely skim the surface of a person’s existence. I have written things down for my kids that I want to be remembered for and also started a geneology for them. Life is short at best.

    God bless you and your family,

    1. How impressive you’re working on a genealogy. I’m not patient enough to tackle that one – or organized enough. Hopefully someone else will do that for our family. Many blessings to you too.

  3. Pat, your mother could not have chosen anyone better to write the short essay of her life. Because you write, not only poetically, but from your heart. You write about her through your eyes of love. You knew her and know she knew you. You write from your grief and memories. You write from the truth that you know. My prayers are with you regularly. God’s Peace comfort you. May you feel His loving arms wrapped around you. Love you!

    1. Thank you so much. I love that you had a chance to meet my mom. You know the whole story and your words go deep with peace to my soul. You’re a treasured friend Debbie.I love you too.

  4. You have again challenged us, Dearest Pat! It has been a long time since i needed to write an obit but the loved life was short, and I was encouraged to just fill out the form. The real ‘work’ of ‘summary’ takes place over weeks, months, and years. Thank you for sharing your ‘task’ which we all know you will do excellently. There is no time like the present to follow your valuable advice to look foreward while looking back with truth! We are so blessed with your gifts!

    1. My sister and I chose to follow the basic format too Conni. It seemed appropriate and what she would have wanted. You’re so right though – the real “work of summary” will take place as time goes by. We’re already seeing signs of that. Thank you for understanding, for your wisdom and especially for friendship. It means so much!

  5. Such a challenging and tough time to go through. I appreciate following this personal time with you. Go with God and draw from his peace.

  6. I agree with Debbie and Conni –
    Your mother is blessed to have you write about her life and you will do the job with excellence. I know that even in this hard, hard task you’ll find the pearl. Sometimes the process of writing brings healing and I hope that’s one of the gift you receive this week.

    1. I love this quote by Emerson, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile – it’s the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship.”

      Thanks for believing in me and for friendship, D’Arcy. It’s worth more than gold.

  7. You are so right when you say that only a small snippet of words can be used to describe our loved one in an obituary. Your Mother’s life story could have filled volumes of books because the real story of each one of us, recalls all of life’s ups and downs, life’s joys and sorrows. I feel like an obituary gives the opportunity to reflect wholeheartedly on our loved one, allowing the tears to flow and the smile to crease our face from side to side as we remember the person, now gone from our sight. Many blessings to you Pat as you grieve your huge loss and begin to replace the heartache with a new awareness of the nearness of Heaven.

    1. Bless your wise and tender heart, Linda. Life is definitely filled with many ups and downs, joys and sorrows. My mother’s life has made better sense to me as I’ve been more open to understanding that fact. Her story is complex, like all of our stories – I have tremendous peace knowing she’s safe in God’s arms right now. I’m grateful.

  8. It’s a sad time for you and your siblings now Pat. But all the sorrow, mistakes, sadness, disappointments your mom experienced will be made right in eternity! All who arrive there will leave their carnal nature behind and will be a new creature. I am looking forward to all the sadness and heartache my mom experienced in this life will be washed away FOREVER! NEVER TO BE REMEMBERED AGAIN! I can’t imagine knowing each of my departed loved ones in the spirit with their carnal natures completely gone! That will be pure joy! You have a glorious future awaiting you Pat, as all of us who know Christ do! God is good. Your precious mom has entered into the joy of her Lord. Think of that Pat, how utterly awesome is that????!!!!! JOY

    1. It is utterly awesome Jeannie – a miracle really. The completion of our Salvation realized in an instant… amazing to think about!

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