I saved this obituary from last summer because it’s such a great example of someone’s life story being told in a captivating way when most other such announcements lend themselves more toward a simple rundown of facts and figures.
The Typical Obituary
John Smith. 1967-2014. Survived by loving wife, three children, ten grandchildren, and two beloved dogs. Smith served in the Army for five years, then worked 30 at the local factory. Funeral services will be held tomorrow at 10, with visitation an hour before. Gifts in John’s memory can be made to his favorite charity.
A few months ago an old childhood friend and neighbor lost his father. Our local hometown ran a front page story on the man the following day. Sure, he was a prominent man in our small town, but he also helped a lot of people and made an important difference in their lives through his work and volunteerism.
The reason I’m posting this today is because yesterday was my birthday. And many years ago on that same day, when I came into the world, my grandfather received a phone call interrupting his golf game. I had arrived! The reason this was of special interest to my grandfather, beyond the obvious, is that it was also his birthday and I’m pretty sure my parents just wanted to let him know that they had gotten him the absolute greatest birthday gift in the history of birthday gifts: me!
My grandpa was also one of those men who had a story written about him in the paper when he died. He took over the family farm his parents had purchased when they immigrated in the early 1900’s, then moved on to owning a few businesses in town, and later represented his friends, family, and neighbors as a local politician.
He was a great man, not just because he was my grandpa and I’m biased (though that is true), but also because he too made a difference in the lives of others through his work and volunteerism.
He, like my friend’s late father, never strove to be rich or famous. Instead they lived their lives as honest citizens, trusting friends, friendly neighbors, loyal husbands, and wise fathers.
“You only live once,” is how the saying goes, but the truth is you live every day. You only die once.
And when your time comes, what do you want your obituary to say? Do you want a simple rundown of the numbers (which is perfectly wonderful, as it shows you are loved and appreciated by those close to you)? Or do you want to live your life worthy of a front page spread? Not necessarily meaning that you are rich and famous beyond imagination, but instead that you have made such a difference in the lives of others that all want to celebrate the life you’ve lived and hold it up as an example to others.
THAT is what makes for a great story.