Skip to main content

reading the obituaries

I read the obituaries in the paper.

I think it originally started while we lived in Georgia and the local paper was much smaller than the Union-Tribune. To feel like I was getting my money’s worth I felt compelled to read every last bit of the paper. That included the police blotter and the obituaries. On any given day, there was a good chance I would know someone in either list.

Even though the Union-Tribune is a larger paper, I still read the obituaries. It’s interesting to me how a lifetime gets summarized in three or four paragraphs. What gets told? What gets left out? How will the person be remembered, if only for a few inches in the local paper?

There are obituaries of people who have lived over 80 years, typically with a picture from their late teens or early 20’s. You can usually tell by the hairdo or the World War II uniform.

The obituaries that interest me the most are the ones that are closest in age to myself. It’s a bit sobering to read the life story of someone who is just a smidge younger or older than yourself. It’s a reminder that all of us are terminal and life is fickle. One’s story can end at any moment and be left for the next of kin to describe in three or four paragraphs.

As I read the obituaries of other people, the question that surfaces in my mind is this: “What story am I leaving behind?” Am I being intentional enough about what I value and believe that those who are left to write my obituary will have no difficulty telling my story? When I think of what I want people to remember, are those the things I am devoting my life to?

I’m not necessarily suggesting you read the obituaries every day — but every now and then might be a good exercise. Regardless if you do or don’t, what you do need to do is to spend time thinking about your legacy and what story you are leaving behind. If it’s one that would make you and God proud, good for you and keep it up. If not, do something different. Start today living the life you want people to remember.