Culture and Trends ›
Shutterstock / Kunal Mehta
Published: 17 days ago
If there's one surefire way to get the last word, it's writing your own obituary.
More and more, people are taking on this project, penning a few lines or a long tale when confronted with a final illness. For the reader, the self-written obituary gives a last glance at the real personality of the person who wrote it, helping us to remember a loved one in rich detail. And for the deceased, perhaps it was a much-needed chance to reflect on a life well-lived and remember the true highlights of the past decades. Here are a few of our favorite final words for your consideration.
Ann Boileau penned a beautiful obituary for herself before her death Oct. 1, 2018.
"Cancer was my undoing and it the most wicked of foes."
After apologizing for letting down all of the well-wishers who supported and prayed for her, Boileau eloquently lets her loved ones know that she will always be with them:
"Having raged against the dying of the light, I will now tell you that I will never be dead as long as my friends and family are alive and kicking. If you should wake up with a song that just will not leave your thoughts, that will be me reminding you to sing. If you stub your big toe and cuss like a sailor, you will know that those words have flown from my mouth into yours. If you wake in the middle of the night with worries keeping you from sleep, remember my favorite saying, 'The Morning is Wiser than the Evening' and you will drift off to sweet dreams." Read more
Ruth Johnson shares the story of her early years in Jamaica, where she dreamed of becoming a doctor, and her life as an immigrant in the U.S. in her very personal and heartfelt obituary:
My father died when I was nine days old... Mom had several children and no father in the household to assist... My mother was a great believer in prayer and faith. She encouraged me not to become discouraged. She would tell me, "Better things are ahead. God will open ways where there seems to be no way."
In the 1950s I came to the United States. The Civil Rights Movement was just beginning. I grieved tremendously the pain of Mamie Till, whose 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, was brutally killed for whistling at a white woman. America was a study in contrast at that time, being the land of opportunity for some and not for others. Read more
It's not often we see an obituary written by a 5-year-old. Such a big personality in such a small package. We are laughing and our hearts are breaking at the same time as we read Garrett's last words. Read more
Salt Lake City native Phil Thorpe's humorous obituary begins with his birth April 1st ("probably marked the beginning of April Fools' Day"), includes his many accomplishments ("will be published at a later date, if any are discovered"), and ends with funeral service information:
"In keeping with one of society's morbid mores, there will be a wee wake Sunday evening for twenty minutes and for six minutes before the funeral the following day. The price of admission to each of these events is one can of food, for his wife to whom he left nearly nothing. Burial will be in his backyard beside the dog his wife would never let him have."
To make sure that Thorpe gets full credit for the funny obit, his family includes this disclaimer at the end: "The above was composed by our beloved Philip in his classic self-deprecating, hilarious fashion." Read more
Beloved University of Georgia journalism professor Barry Hollander penned his own obit, noting "I never allowed my students to write their assignments in the first person, so it's ironic that my very last piece of published writing is in, of all things, first person." Read more
It's probably not surprising that a journalist would pen his own obituary. And that's exactly what editor Mark Mooney did, in a piece published on Medium.
"If you are reading this, that means that I am no longer here. The prostate cancer finished toying with me on October 6, 2017. I was 66 and glad to be done with the damn disease."
Mooney loved being a reporter ("Journalist is kind of a lace curtain word for the job") and wished he had done more:
"I would tell you that I wish I had done more work as a news reporter. Written better stories. Made more and better contacts. Skipped some of the easier pieces and done more in-depth stories. Spent more time on foreign stories. Been a better editor." Read more
Sheryl Poggi "never smoked, drank, or took a drug." She "ate healthy," but still she died from pancreatic cancer at 66, just four months after being diagnosed. Poggi takes charge of her obituary, sharing memories of her life and tributes to her family. She also urges readers to take charge of their own deaths.
"I started planning for my death while I was still healthy. I strongly recommend that everyone do that – plan on your own terms." Read more
"This obituary is for the luckiest man in the world."
"Lucky to have had an unbelievably strong, loving, and forgiving mother who taught me much more than she ever realized..."
"Lucky to have married the most amazing woman I ever met, Terri. My life immeasurably changed the day I met her..."
"Lucky to have been a father to two amazing children. Amanda, my fiery little redhead, whose strength and determination have always far exceeded her physical stature... Alexander, who is too much like me when I was a young man, I look upon him with the prideful eyes of a father..."
"Lucky to have been touched by the grace of God..." Read more
Delaney Farrell died July 1, 2017, "after a long and hard battle with drug addiction." In her obituary, her family gives a heartfelt tribute, painting a full picture of the 23-year-old who loved Oreos and books, making funny faces and writing. The obituary includes a gut-wrenching poem, written by Delaney, that details her life as a drug addict:
"I remember blaming myself when my mom decided to leave. I remember the guilt I felt in my chest making it hard to breathe. I remember caring so much but not knowing how to show it. and I know to this day that she probably don't even know it..." Read more
"In 6th grade I decided, like kids will, that I wanted to be a FBI agent. I wrote a letter to the local FBI agency asking what I needed to study to become an agent. I received a reply that thanked me for my interest, but only men could be agents. They would be happy to have me apply to be a secretary, clerk or work in the lab. If I had been interested in those jobs that is what I would have asked about!" Read more
"FOR THOSE WHO MAY HAVE KNOWN ME, AND THOSE WHO REALLY DIDN'T, PLEASE ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF... Robin Hopper was a man of many parts, mostly worn out, rusty and dysfunctional, due to a lifetime of excesses! He started working with clay at the age of three and was still doing it over 70 years later." Read the obituary
"My first job was working at an ice cream parlor and that is where I met the love of my life Louis. I would ride my brother's bike to work. One day Louis stole my brother's bike and said he would return it when I gave him my phone number. This was the beginning of our life long love story..." Read more
Michelle Corkin's last message to her beloved community was to enjoy the simple things that she cherished during her idyllic upbringing. Read more
85-year-old Fargo, North Dakota, resident Douglas Legler wanted to go out with a laugh, and his wish was granted. While everyone else writes hagiographic biographies for their obituaries, listing every major accomplishment in detailed fashion, Legler insisted his eventual obit be as succinct as humanly possible. Read more
Sometimes, even in death, the best person to get the job done is yourself. We figure that’s what led Margaret (Marge) Aitken Holcombe to write her own obituary. Read more
"I met my demise on June 10, 2015 at Springfield Regional Hospital in the presence of my loving family. I was 64 years old. I must have died from heart failure or end-stage renal failure. Guess I could've died from pizza overdose." Read more
"One of the few advantages of dying from Stage IV breast cancer 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 diabetes, cholesterol and weight)." Read more
"I hope to be remembered, with laughter, love and a good pint. And for my children to know 'No Momma ever did and no Momma ever will…..'" Read more
Writing your own obituary isn't the only way to share your thoughts before you die. Young dad Mitchell Whisenhunt left dozens of letters for his wife and daughter to help them through their grief after his death. Read more
Following her death, a final post went up to her blog, "And so there must come an end," composed by Kitley after her doctor told her she had only days to live. Read more
Lee Phillips was a veteran, a salesman and a bit of a wordsmith, as he proved with his rhyming obituary. Read more
John Bart gives thanks for the awesome life he was able to lead, and the many date nights shared with his wife. Read more
"I didn't get everything accomplished I wanted to, so I left it for the kids. The weeds, the garden, the leaky faucets and all my possessions I really did not need after all, and last, but not least, my love." Read more
Retired military man Charles Palmer chronicles his own "triumphs and foibles," and speculates that "Jack Daniels, 3 star Asian food, garlic pizza and good cigars" may have contributed to the "natural causes" that resulted in his death. Read more
He was proud of the life he built with his wife and their three children, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. The great grandkids warranted three exclamation points, hinting at the pride Ferguson must have felt for his ever-growing family. Read more
Blink and you'll miss Robert W. Powers' wry humor in this remarkable obituary written by the man himself. Read more
Kevin J. McGroarty died July 22, 2014, but his wit and wisdom live on in his amazing and hilarious obituary, written by the man himself. A lover of practical jokes, one has to wonder if this obituary was his last laugh or just his most recent. Read more
Paul D. Hill figured it was either his heart or Agent Orange that caused his demise, but either way he planned to go out "kicking and screaming." Read more
McMullen "decided a long time ago to write my own obituary because they are usually written in a couple of different ways I just don't care about." She goes on to offer advice on everything from forgiveness ("Forgive someone who doesn't deserve it") to smoking ("quit"). Read more
"If you are reading this obituary it means I am probably dead." Read more
Robert Bonadonna does not mince words in his obituary. He tells his life story without pulling any punches, and the result is an amazing mixture of humor and heart that must be read to be believed. Read more
Retired salesman John Lathrop describes his struggle with ALS as a "no-holds-barred ... cage match" against the disease, one that gave him the time to pen his own obituary. Read more
Don't want to wait until your obit is published to have the last word? Take a page from Louis Misko's book and host your own funeral. Read more
Actor James Rebhorn was known for his work as Carrie's father on television series "Homeland" before his death from skin cancer. He wrote his own obituary, a beautiful goodbye to his family, friends, and fans. His life, recounted in his own words, is a thing of beauty. Read more
Nancy Heath reminds us how great it feels to choose laughter over tears. Read more
Shortly before his death in 2001, George Harrison wrote one last letter. Read more
Walter Bruhl of New Jersey and Delaware mixes wisdom and humor in his farewell. Read more
Tillman's indomitable spirit shines through in this charming obituary. Read more
Very rarely is an obituary written in verse. Mingrone's sweet goodbye is not only full of good advice, it also rhymes. Read more
College professor Jerry Flora delivers a Master's Class on obituaries, and shares more than a few laughs. Read more
The late Val Patterson may have started a trendy new way to share one’s secrets. Patterson’s self-written obituary includes a paragraph of shocking (and, in some cases, shockingly funny) confessions. Read more
Jane Lotter knew her time was limited, so she penned a poignant farewell. Read more
"My name is Al and I was born with an incredible determination to compliment the challenging life ahead of me with cerebral palsy. Being equal parts of Polish and Korean- I was quite the 'spice.'" Read more
"You may think that Sunday, September 22, 2013 marked the end for me huh? Wrong! My lineage will continue on through all those babies born to my family." Read more
"I have had some close calls and a few unhealthy habits, so I am glad I have lasted as long as I have..." Read more
"Now that my flesh and heart have failed and my mortal life has ceased I look forward to a life of everlasting joy and peace..." Read more
"My life was very content and happy until August, 1930 when my mother passed away from appendicitis. My father had an insurance agency. He had an office in our big house and my mother took care of the details of his business. Well, when she died he was devastated." Read more
We're often told, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." Kaye Henderson followed that advice... she wrote her own obituary, and she did it right. Read more
Ken Akers wrote his own obituary and gave it to a close friend for safekeeping before he "kicked the bucket" June 1, 2011, at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to his very funny obit, Akers was raised Catholic but "excommunicated himself." A self-described "hopeless romantic and a hapless husband," Akers was married twice. "Neither marriage produced any children or any particularly fond memories." Read more