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COLUMN: Do-it-yourself obituary could be a good thing

In this week's Everything King, Wendy offers tongue-in-cheek look at the benefits of a pre-written final farewell
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As Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

He sent that from London to a U.S. newspaper which had mistakenly published the writer’s obituary.

It's actually a long-standing media practice to have “advance obituaries” written and in the can, as it were, so the outlet will be first to report when the unfortunate event occurs.

It's usually reserved for the very famous — someone whose passing will impact the world.

It's also done for the locally important, like a politician.

I guess it could be seen as a bit ghoulish, but in the media, where being first is vital, it's more about professional preparation.

Unless, of course, they get it wrong.

Does anyone remember when it was reported that Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot had passed — in 2010 — and it spread like wildfire?

I remember it because the Orillia native called the radio station I worked at to confirm he was very much alive. He handled it with good humour, but it must have been quite a surreal moment. (Lightfoot died in 2023.)

Also consider, according to The Guardian, in the United Kingdom, the Queen’s obituary had been written and waiting for a decade. When Her Majesty did pass in 2022, it was published one minute after the official word went out.

All of this to say I’m not sure I want to leave the composition of my obit to other people.

I’m thinking if I want it done right, I should do it myself.

There’s a couple of reasons for that.

I’m the writer in the family, so it just makes sense. It will leave them one less job to do. I just assume they will be too distraught to think. I assume that, anyway!

Let’s face it, nobody does things properly anymore.

I’ve had my sister make me the same disgusting marshmallow fruit salad for every special occasion. And every single time I say I don’t really like that. Every single time she says she thought it was my favourite. So, no, I am not leaving the last words to her.

Personally, I can’t stand those fill-in-the-blank type obits used by some media outlets and funeral homes. Too brief, too impersonal.

I know you have to keep in brief in these days, when people have the attention span of gnats, so I guess it needs to be short and sweet.

Perhaps, humour is the way to go.

And some truth.

In almost every obituary or eulogy, the dearly departed comes off as an earth angel. They had no enemies. They never complained about their illness. They were sunshine.

Come on, people. 

I am again assuming I likely did not feel good pre-death, so I know myself enough to believe I would have been complaining. I would be sickly, unhappy and quite willing to share my misery with others, so I’m not saying I was a joy.

The newly deceased is also usually described as someone who loved everyone.

If we’re going with honesty, I’m going to have to edit that to say she loved cats more than most people. A lot of folks annoyed the heck out of her/me.

I don’t know what awaits us in the Great Beyond, but I don’t think it's wise to lie in the last published description of one’s life.

A lot of write-ups will say “in lieu of flowers.”

Hear me now!

There will be no “in lieu.” I would prefer copious amounts of floral tributes. It's fine if you want to donate to some good cause that has meaning to you, but don’t be skimping on the flowers.

There’s a meme that resonates with me, too. It says: “There will be no food at my funeral. You are there to cry, not eat.”

I hope nobody else abides by that, because if I’m truthful, I love a good funeral spread put on by church ladies, but in this case, if I’m not going to get to partake then no triangle sandwiches for you.

The more I think about this idea about writing your own obituary, the more it just makes sense.

Only you know what you considered your proudest achievements.

It would be a chance to share your favourite quote. People should read it and nod saying, “Yup, that was her.”

To be clear, I do not want to leave this mortal coil anytime soon, but it's not a bad idea to be semi-prepared.

Trust me, I do not find anything amusing about death or grief or loss.

However, it can’t hurt to leave ‘em laughing.

But, do me a favour and laugh through your tears.

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About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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