Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Obituaries: How Did You Do?

Did you get an F on your husband's obituary?

I'm pretty sure I did. I still feel a guilty twinge when the word is mentioned. So I'm coming clean here.

In my defense, let me say that Bruce died at the wrong time of day, right at supper time. So it's his fault he wasn't listed in the morning paper. Of course I'm being facetious, but there was a time factor for both me and the newspaper. Newspapers have deadlines and they don't yell "Stop the presses!" for obituaries.

For me---writing an obituary an hour after he died? We didn't even have the meal I'd cooked that night! I threw it out when I got home from the hospital. Or maybe I threw it out the next morning, or the next week when I might have found it still in the oven. I truly don't remember. But I do remember my brain was numb and frozen. I couldn't eat, and I sure couldn't write. Over the next couple days we got one in the paper, but I don't know how. I have no idea who wrote it. Maybe I did; but maybe I didn't. It didn't matter at the time. Oops, I mean it didn't matter to me at the time.
It did matter to other people though. And here's what I began to understand:

First off, obituaries are often the last written record of a person's life, so people attach a lot of emotion to them. Everyone wants their own copy of the obituary (buy a bunch of newspapers that day!) These news clippings will be passed down from generation to generation, tucked into the family Bible, sent out with thank you notes, etc., and become important links for geneologists.

Also, people who subscribe to a local newspaper often rank reading the obituaries right up there with the headlines on the front page! I learned by experience that if they don't see your husband's obituary at the time of death they will feel outright stupefied and angered. Not that they have any right to, they just do. 

Now that I think about it, they really are kind of special, aren't they?
But what if you didn't put one in the paper? Then what?

Next Tuesday when we come back to this topic under the Retelling Your Story label, we'll see some suggestions and alternative solutions to obituaries. I began this topic back in March with The Obituary & Death Notice, so if you click back to that article you'll find more help and clarification. In the meantime, post your experiences or questions in the comment box and we can work through this together.


  1. I know I didn't write my husband's obituary. I remember sitting at the funeral home with my daughters and hearing the funeral director asking them what names they wanted in just a standard obit. I wish my mind hadn't been too frozen at the time to add important things about him that said who he really was as a man.

  2. We never really talked about it, so I didn't write one for the paper, I just let the funeral home post the information. I wrote to family.

    What I have done since my dear husband of 43 years left this life to be with Jesus, is post about him from day one of his absence.

    He was/is the love of my life. He showed me what love is all about. I miss him so, but knowing he is with Jesus is a tremendous blessing, even though I still cry daily.

    This is my humble response to your post.

    I don't think we will be judged by God for the obituaries we did or did not write for our husbands

    FlowerLady Lorraine

  3. My stepkids wrote an obituary and I did some editing, but it was terribly hard. How do you summarize the life of someone so important to you in a paragraph? The notice made it into the large regional paper the next day, but his death was at the "wrong" time to make it into the local paper before the funeral, and there was a major snowstorm that knocked out power (and e-mail)to much of our area, so not many people knew about his death or were able to come to the funeral. People have told me they would have been there had they known. It hurts that it wasn't the "standing room only" occasion it should have been. It was comforting when a number of people told me how good the obituary was.

  4. Chris, It would sting me too that it wasn't the "standing room only" occasion because of the power outage. The obit you wrote really was effective, and I thank you for sharing this story of yours.
    Lorraine writes a beautiful blog and I hope everyone will click on her name to visit it. Blogging and other forms of writing can serve as a good way to work through loss and the changes it brings. Plus it stands as an honor and tribute to our loved one.
    And Candy, I hope people will visit your blog too, which the Lord is using to bless and help other widows from your experiences of multiple losses. I love you and your honesty and compassion.

  5. I remember having the same feeling about the obituary as my eulogy at the funeral. How do you summarize a life and a relationship that ended unexpectedly, unnecessarily and that I wasn't ready to let go?

    I knew so many people would be shocked, so I felt pressure to address things in a way that would be helpful.

    There is such a weight of significance attached to this. I put it off, but eventually I did have a sense of what I needed to say - thanks to the Lord who gave me the words!

  6. Ron passed on June 7, 2013. The Lord fixed it so we would be right there with him as he made the transition from earth to his heavenly home. His cousin did the obit and looking back she forgot to put one of his brother's name in it. Of course the brother was offended. I wished I could have remembered all that he had done in the 40+ years we were married but I didn't remember. Gee,I still can't remember all those that attended his home going services. It's all such a blur. Well our grandchildren said there were a lot of people there. I'm glad because he loved all people at all times. I miss him so much! Does the pain ever stop? Tuesday was such a sad day. I think it has to do with it being my first Mother's Day without him. I thank you Lord for giving him to me for the time we shared with our 7 children, grandchildren and our other family members and friends.


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