A friend recently shared with me that she was considering taking a volunteer position in order to fill out her obituary. I laughed, you need a resume for death now? By way of explanation she referred me to the pathetically short obituary of a mutual acquaintance. I looked it up. It was paltry.
I didn't know the deceased well but it seemed to me even by casual and distant observation that she was more than this brief description of her life and death. I wondered what my obituary might say and if I should take on more volunteer positions in order to leave a good looking column inch. Should I start writing my obituary now? My children won't do it and even if they did it would likely say, "She flew a broom."
I could do better than that. I should become an obituary writer. Thinking this a novel idea, I turned to the source of all information, the internet, only to find such a thing already exists. I also learned that obituaries differ from death notices.
It's a little more complicated than this but, generally, obituaries are written by staff writers or journalists of a newspaper or other publication. They are like any news article with the subject being notable, interesting, newsworthy people, recently departed. Death notices, on the other hand, are like classified ads. They are written and submitted by the family who pays a fee for its publication.
For example, The Seattle Times charges $119.80 for the first column inch of a death notice and $94.80 for each additional inch for weekday notices.
Sunday notices cost $145.84 for the first inch and $120.84 for each additional inch. (There are approximately 50 words in a column inch.) There is an additional charge if the notice is to appear online and a photo can cost upwards of $300 more.
Your family might not be motivated to say much.
If you're not famous enough to have one written for free, hiring someone to write your obituary or writing your own seem to be the new trends in death although professional obit writing isn't exactly new. The Society of Professional Obituary Writers has been around since 2007. They provide professional training and resources to obituary writers, hold conferences, and recognize outstanding obituaries with honors in excellence - The Grimmies. (No joke.) They also provide a worthwhile list of books on the subject (for "Writers and Readers" of obituaries) which include obituary anthologies. So-called pre-written obituaries are published, after death, on websites such as Legacy.com and those of local papers, funeral homes, or churches.
I didn't know this was a thing.
If I were to write my own obituary, it was would still include the words, "She flew a broom," because I used to tell the kids I could. When they were very little, we used to try to get lift off by running up and down the sidewalk, dragging the broom between our legs. Flight became real over the years with repetition of the tale and now my grandson is convinced that I did it once before. (Flight and safety regulations being what they are and the onslaught of technical improvements to the mechanical broom make it impossible to attempt flight now, I explain.)
Although flying a broom is a notable accomplishment, I might want to think about other ways to make my final report more interesting and well rounded. Maybe I still have time to become a ninja. Or maybe I what I really need is a good ghostwriter.
(Couldn't help myself.)