My ex brother in law passed away last month, and my sister in law (his ex-wife) asked me if I would write his obituary. That is a first for me, I have never been asked to do that. As I confessed in an earlier blog, I am an avid reader of the obituary page every Sunday. It sounds weird I know, but most obituaries are 10% about how people died and 90% about how they lived and the stories just fascinate me. I had known Jason for 20 years, and spent many good times with him but as I started out to write his obituary, I realized how many details of his life I did not know. I did not know when he was born, or exactly where. I didn’t know when he graduated from high school, or where he went to school after that. I had to ask my sister in law when they were married and when they got divorced. As I started putting it all together, I realized I had to try to summarize an entire life in 6 or 7 hundred words and there was so much that I did not know.
How do you do that? How do you decide what is important to tell (how devoted he was to his nieces and nephews) and what to leave out (how he became enslaved by a raging alcoholism that finally killed him). In the end, I realized that he had written his own obituary, and I just put it on paper for him. That brought me to the realization that we are all in the process of writing our own obituaries right here and right now. Yesterday and tomorrow, we are leaving a trail for someone to write about later when we are gone. The way Jason lived his life created the story I had to tell when it was over, just like you and I are doing each and every day. His story was one of eventual self-destruction and a lonely death, what is your story going to be? Good and bad certainly, struggle and triumph just as certainly, some of it avoidable, and some of it inevitable. Just make sure that when it comes time to write your obituary, it is 90% how you lived, and 10% how you died. The choice is yours.