Sunday, March 10, 2013

Summarizing a Life

This week, my dad's obituary was printed in his hometown newspaper and posted on their website. He was a naval intelligence officer during WW2, then a CIA political analyst. He soon embarked on a second career as a political science professor, giving, rather than gathering, information.

He was 94 when he passed, and few of his peers are still alive. A comment notes his people skills as a teacher, and how his stories made historical events come alive.

His obituary is factual, succinct, and (I'm sorry to say) bland. What if obituaries could read more like synopses? Put some jazz into them.

Peoples' lives have highs and lows, good times and bad. What if we wrote our life stories and left them for our families? Would they be shocked? Would they laugh. Shudder? Shake their heads?

Would they print them?


  1. Obituaries tend to be like that, don't they? But I have attended some funeral/memorial services where members of the family or friends told light-hearted stories that made everyone smile, and even laugh out loud.
    The most unusual one I ever attended was a non-religious one when the deceased had recorded his own 'obituary', and we listened to him recounting various stories about his life, some serious but some funny, too.

  2. It sounds like your dad had an exciting life. Obituaries rarely capture something like that.

    That mixture of laughter and tears at funerals/memorial services sure make them an emotional roller-coaster.

  3. That was a memorable memorial, Paula!
    Debra, I'm hoping my dad's memorial is a celebration of his life.

  4. I think newspapers put such requirements on obituaries that they're rarely interesting, nor do they give much personality to the person. Memorials and funeral services are where that happens.

    Synopses are usually pretty bland and boring too.