I was recently tasked with writing my stepmom’s obituary. I thought it would be easy for me, but it wasn’t. I had the basic information to start: date and place of birth, date of death, etc., but the story of her life was much more complex than that. I wasn’t sure how I was going to capture it in a few short paragraphs. Ultimately, with input from family, I chose to keep it short and sweet... just like her.
For added inspiration, I researched, “how to write an obituary,” online and found some incredibly powerful tributes. Some made me laugh, while others made me cry. Here’s a sampling from four heartwarming and heartbreaking obituaries that helped inspire me to write a meaningful tribute to my stepmom.
Example #1: Using Humor
Writing an obituary is a somber task, but I was surprised to find more than a few tributes that infused humor. Here’s one example:
William “Freddie” McCullough’s obituary claims the Georgia man “adored the ladies” but hated vegetables. McCullough, who died on September 11, 2013, apparently loved to tell tales. His obituary recalled: “Freddie was killed when he rushed into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable children. Or maybe not. We all know how he liked to tell stories.”
It goes on to say Freddie “loved deep fried southern food smothered in cane syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, ‘Two and a Half Men,’ beautiful women, Reese’s Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order.”
Using humor can be a meaningful way to personalize an obituary for a light-hearted loved one.
Example #2: Writing Your Own Obituary
Reflecting on your life by planning your funeral in advance can be a positive experience for both you and your loved ones. Here’s an excerpt from a powerful obituary by Jane Catherine Lotter, which she penned before her death.
“One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen, is that you have time to write your own obituary. (The other advantages are no longer bothering with sunscreen and no longer worrying about your cholesterol.) To wit: My beloved Bob, Tessa, and Riley.
My beloved friends and family. How precious you all have been to me. Knowing and loving each one of you was the success story of my life. Metaphorically speaking, we will meet again, joyfully, on the other side.”
If you are considering your own end-of-life plans, writing your obituary can be a good first step.
Example #3: Honoring a Beloved Pet
For many, our pets are our family, so writing an obituary for them seems only natural. Comedian Sarah Silverman penned a moving tribute for her beloved rescue dog. Here’s an excerpt:
“I held him and kissed him and whispered to him well passed his passing. I picked him up and his body was limp – you don’t think about the head – it just falls. I held him so tight. And then finally, when his body lost its heat, and I could sense the doctor thinking about the imminent rush hour traffic, I handed him over.
My longest relationship.
My only experience of maternal love.
My constant companion.
My best friend.
For many of us, pets become a fixture in our homes. Writing their obituaries, even if only for our own sake or that of our immediate family, can be a powerful way to process our grief.
Example #4: Memorializing a Child
Losing a child is one of the most painful experiences a family can endure. When writing a child's obituary, remember this is the family's last tribute for their child and should reflect a feeling of hope and comfort. The following are excerpts from an obituary for a young girl.
OLIVIA GRACE WHITE — At home and in her sleep on December 26, 2012, at the age of five and a half. She touched the lives of so many; our beloved, shining, happy girl, the light of our lives and the star of our hearts and leaves us smiling through our tears. She was joy personified.
Please spread her message of love, dance and laughter and be good to one another.
Have bunny dreams my darling. Just bunny dreams.
While I sincerely hope and pray that none of you ever have to write such an obituary, it can be helpful to focus on the happier elements of their short life, memorializing their unique personalities and highlighting those things that were so meaningful while they lived.
I hope these examples will inspire you. But, remember your local funeral professionals can assist with any of your funeral planning and preplanning needs, including writing a personal and meaningful obituary. After all, a truly great obituary is simply one that’s written exactly as you and your loved ones wish.