A recent Miss Manners column answered a reader who wondered whether she should include her beloved godchildren in her obituary, which she was drafting herself in order to make things easier on her family later.
Miss Manners not only counseled her not to include anyone in the obituary other than immediate family members and their spouses – she also frowned on the idea of writing one’s own obituary. She suggested a self-written obituary might look like “a lengthy acceptance speech” and called this “a hazard of writing your own obituary.”
Here at Legacy, we beg to differ with Miss Manners’ advice.
Over nearly 23 years of Legacy’s existence, we’ve watched the family-written obituary grow into an art form, allowing for wide-ranging expressions of loving creativity as families remember the dear ones they’ve lost. Today, some obituaries are funny; others are heartbreakingly poignant. We’ve seen some obituaries written in verse and others inventing wildly fictional tales about the deceased; some offering straight talk about the dangers of addiction and others making political endorsements.
And yes, we’ve seen an ever-increasing number of people write their own obituaries before their deaths. Their family members update the text with a few final details before publishing – and they’re left with an incredibly personal remembrance of a special person’s life.
Our own advice on this matter is: If you think you’d like to write your own obituary, you should do it. Just make sure your family knows you’ve done it and can find the document when the time comes.
As for who should be included in an obituary’s list of survivors? There’s no hard and fast rule on this. If there are non-family members who are dear to your heart, and you want to include them among the survivors in an obituary, then include them. It doesn’t matter if they’re immediate family members or distant relations, old friends or new neighbors, even medical staff or caregivers who have made a difference in the last days of a life. If it occurs to you that you’d like to honor someone by including them in the obituary, then you should do it.
These days, other than any publication guidelines set by the newspaper where you publish it, there really aren’t any manners or rules or no-no’s when it comes to writing an obituary. If you write what’s in your heart, you’ll have done it right.