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Write your obituary. I just did

With the Corona Virus Pandemic keeping us at home, this is a perfect opportunity to research and write yours. You will do your loved ones, a reporter or anyone trying to write your death notice, and yourself a favor.

Reporters and funeral home employees may be asking your loved ones for information that might not be at the tip of their tongue at a time when they are grieving and trying to make arrangements for a memorial service. The exact date and location of your birth? When did you graduate from high school? College? What degree? What was your most remarkable achievement? A turning point in your career?

Perhaps you can appreciate why every now and then a newspaper columnist urges readers to write their own obituary. Reporters appreciate accurate information and the ability to obtain it with minimal intrusiveness at an emotional time. It may also give your loved ones an opportunity to say something like "What I really loved/admired/appreciated about him/her was …."

I write this as a journalist interested in helping you accurately fashion your last message.

I do not write this because of my age and, at 70-plus, greater risk of death from the Pandemic.

I write this because my wife and I, enjoying traveling across Oregon in our RV last September, came across the cleanup of a head on collision involving two RVs. Both drivers were killed and their wives critically injured. Death can come at any moment.

A draft of my obit is in a secure place, and won't be posted as a template. Don't want anyone to inadvertently announce my death prematurely.

The format for a well-written obit is rather simple. In the first paragraph, who you were and your most noteworthy achievement. Like any lead, a reason to read on.

In the second or third paragraph, who announced or confirmed your death, with date and cause of death.

Next tell a story about yourself. Be sure to include your birth date and location, the full name of your parents, your spouse's full name and date of marriage.

Keep it to 350-500 words. Keep it simple. Keep it accurate.

It's your last chance to immortalize yourself.

Helpful hints:

Read a few newspaper obituaries from your local newspaper or The New York Times, which has elevated it to high journalism.

While looking for things to watch during this period of sheltering at home, check out "Obit," a short-lived, feature-length film about the obituary unit at the New York Times. It's available for online rental.

Search the Web for "write your obituary."



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