Sunday, November 21, 2010

Writing Obit for Loved One

Writing an obituary for a loved one is not an easy task but an important one if you are up to doing it. You could leave it up to the newspaper staff to do and provide the information or you can write an expression of love yourself and send it in by email to be printed.

The main reason to write your own is to make sure the information gets printed correctly. I can tell you from experience that when my daughter Marcy died, I did not write the obit and wrongly assumed it would be okay to let someone else do it. In three different papers, her name was spelled three different ways: Marci, Marcie and the correct way, Marcy. I was furious that others have such disregard for making sure a name is correct. As a journalism teacher, I remember it was the first lesson I taught my students: name accuracy. And I used the example of the simple last name of Smith, which can be spelled Smithe, Smythe, Smyth or Smith.

When Marcy’s father, my ex-husband, died earlier this year, I was determined not to let that happen again and so I wrote his obituary myself, including Marcy’s name in it as having pre-deceased him. It was printed as written, and I was happy with the results.

Another reason to do it yourself is to make sure it gets to where you want it to get, that is, you may want to send it to more than one publication and usually a funeral director will not want to bother to do more than one.

You may also want it printed immediately, depending on when the service is being held, so that others can know and attend if they so desire.

There are even some people now who are writing their own obituaries and planning the whole funeral service, saying what music they want played, what poem or song they want sung, and what instructions they want followed. Although this may sound morbid, perhaps it is not a bad idea to relieve the loved one of the burden. (I have already decided what I want my funeral stone to say for my husband and me and have purchased a double funeral plot. It is something everyone should think about.)

Obituaries should contain the following basic information: name, age, date of death, when and where funeral services will be held, and surviving family members (and deceased as in the case of Marcy). Usually, the cause of death is not listed. You might want to add the school from where the person graduated, important organizations they belonged to, honors won and phrases such as “a loving father, grandfather or husband” or some personality trait he/she was known for. A final comment is usually directed at where flowers or contributions in the person’s memory can be made.

Many like to send photos along with the article written. This can also be sent by email. You don’t want to take the chance of calling in all the information, and sending it all snail mail takes too long. Too many mistakes can be made, and once it is printed, it is too late to correct.

There is usually a cost involved to get a nice obituary in a local newspaper, and it ranges anywhere from free to $200, as I discovered recently. Call the newspaper for the email to send the information or if you have a good funeral director, they will email it immediately to where it needs to go.

Although not a pleasant thing to have to do, it will be the last thing read for some friends of the deceased. You want it to be a tribute to them, done accurately and properly.

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