How would you summarize your life in roughly 500 words or less? How could you work in the important events, the important people, your passions, your priorities, etc…? Hundreds of people write these stories about others every single day, we call them obituaries.
An obituary is typically a notice of death with a short biography summarizing the life of the deceased. Oftentimes, these stories are written before the death to assist the surviving family when that death occurs. I believe that writing your own obituary can also serve other important purposes that I will describe later.
I am leading a group of just under 30 people through a four-session seminar I put together called “Living with the End in Mind”. You can find more information about it here. Last night we finished session three. The homework for each person prior to session three was for each attendee to write their own obituary – a summary of their life to that point. We read some of them last night and will read the remainder during our next session.
It is really a challenge to write your own obituary. You want to include important events and people. You also want to work in groups that you belonged to and things that were important in your life. As a follower of Christ, I also believe your faith should be part of your obituary – when you placed your faith in Christ and how you sought to live out that faith.
I have people write their obituary for three reasons. First, it will be helpful to the family when a person does die. In my life as a funeral director, you would be amazed how often a family came in that had no clue when Mom and Dad were married or when they moved to Iowa or what organizations Dad belonged to. A pre-written obituary helps in this regard. Secondly, writing your obituary makes a person acknowledge their own mortality that someday this obituary will be needed. Thirdly, since the obituary is a summary of a person’s life to that point and with the realization that there will be a day when the obituary is needed – when it will “go to press” and be published in the newspaper, it can cause a person to take a good look at their life and really think about what they would like to accomplish prior to that day when this document is finalized.
I wrote my obituary – in fact, you can read it here if you would like. I wonder how this will change between now and the day that I die. I know I can’t control the day I die, but I can control how I live my life between now and that day. I can make daily decisions on how to more effectively live out my faith. I can make decisions on places I want to visit, things I want to do, people I want to impact, priorities I want to live out. I can really start to “live with the end in mind.”
Have you contemplated your death and what you hope to accomplish before the day when your obituary is needed? Are you living with your end in mind?