Writing your own obituary is becoming more popular, with funny, poignant and moving examples going viral online.
Obituaries are a way to honour someone who has died, summing up their life’s achievements and paying tribute to who they were. Although they are usually written by friends or family, some people are breaking away from tradition and choosing to pen their own obituary.
The results are humorous, heart-breaking and uplifting.
“What a whiner!”
Kay Ann Heggstad, from Wisconsin, USA, wrote her own obituary after she was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. According to her husband, she wrote and rewrote the funny and self-deprecating obituary until she was completely happy with it.
It starts: “Kay Ann Heggestad, age 72, bought the farm, is no more, has ceased to be, left this world, is bereft of life, gave up the ghost, kicked the bucket, murió, c’est fini.”
Kay Ann continues: “No one should say she fought a courageous battle, because she did not! Unlike most folks, she complained all the way. What a whiner! She was ready to quit treatment many times but her family pushed her to continue, which was good since she then had time to have parties and say goodbye to friends and relatives.”
Before she died, Kay Ann had two celebration of life parties with her closest friends and family, which she described as “the best parties she’d ever been to.” A third celebration of life was held in her memory after her passing.
“Most of the time I failed, but I tried.”
Sonia Todd from Moscow, Idaho, wrote a startlingly honest self-obituary before she died from cancer, age just 38.
“Let’s face it,” wrote the mother of two, “I never really accomplished anything of note…The truth, or my version of it, is this: I just tried to do the best I could. Sometimes I succeeded, most of the time I failed, but I tried.”
She concludes: “Some folks told me that writing my own obituary was morbid, but I think it is great because I get a chance to say thank you to all the people who helped me along the way…I was blessed beyond measure by knowing all of you. That is what made my life worthwhile.”
“Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils…”
One grandfather’s self-written obituary went viral after his grandson shared it online. Walter George Bruhl Jr. used his obituary as an opportunity to crack a few last jokes:
“Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935, a spinal disc in 1974, a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988, and his prostate on March 27th 2000.”
It continues: “Cremation will take place at the family’s convenience and his ashes will be kept in an urn until they get tired of having it around. What’s a Grecian Urn? Oh, about 200 drachmas a week.”
But he also used it to encourage loved ones to do something to help others: “Instead of flowers, Walt would hope that you will do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for some poor unfortunate soul in his name.”
“Today I am happy and dancing.”
Emily DeBrayda Phillips also decided to pen her own obituary after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Equal parts funny and moving, her tribute to her life and loved ones quickly went viral online.
“It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away,” wrote the teacher from Florida. “Everyone told me it would happen one day but that’s simply not something I wanted to hear, much less experience. Once again I didn’t get things my way!”
But ultimately, Emily’s message is one of hope and happiness: “I’ll leave you with this…please don’t cry because I’m gone; instead be happy that I was here. (Or maybe you can cry a little bit. After all, I have passed away). Today I am happy and I am dancing. Probably naked. Love you forever.”
“Maybe I’ll see you all there”
A man from Nova Scotia, Canada, grabbed people’s attention after he published his own obituary in his local newspaper.
“I bought the farm. I bit the dust. So I guess I’m off to the promised land eh? The promised land! Imagine!” wrote Angus B. MacDonald.
“So anyway, I think I was a pretty nice guy, despite being a former punk and despite what some people would say about me. What did they know about me anyway? I loved my family and cared for them through good times and bad; I did my best.”
Recalling his dog Scarlett, who had died in 2013, he ended the memorial with a sentiment that all dog-lovers will understand: “So I guess if there’s a place in the afterlife where little dogs and old dawgs go, then that’s where you’ll find me and Scarlett. Maybe I’ll see you all there sometime.”
Writing your own obituary
If you’re thinking about how you want to be remembered, writing your own obituary is a great way to reflect on life. You might want to return to it every few years and keep it safe for your loved ones to find.
Planning for the future gives you peace of mind and helps care for your family when you’re gone. Find out more about planning ahead with Avalon.
About the author
With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.