In our business we hear a lot of eulogies at funeral services. More recently I have heard ministers asking those present to consider the dash; the symbol that is between the dear departed’s date of birth and date of death. That dash represents their lifetime. That lifetime is what is summarized in “The Obituary.”
The information for the obituary is usually gathered by the closest family members of the person that passed away. It can be written by the family or a close friend. Your funeral director can also be of assistance if needed. We at Woods-Valentine have a sample obituary for families to work from, in order to make sure the important elements are included.
The obituary can be short or detailed, but generally includes date and place of birth, name of parents and siblings, education and any special details about his or her upbringing. Also included is information re: the person’s employment, specifically the type of work they did most of their life. If the person was in the military, that history is included: dates of service, place of service, rank and awards or honors.
Special events and accomplishments in one’s life are also included in the obituary: baptisms and other religious observances, marriage, having children, educational accomplishments, promotions, retirement, etc…
In writing the obituary ask yourself a few questions: Who was this person? What aspects of their personality stood out? Were they caring, fun-loving, patient, thoughtful, spirited, etc..? How did they touch your life or the lives of others? What did they like to do? What were their unique gifts, hobbies, interests, talents, and skills? What was their relationship with God as you saw it? How did they impact others for good? Answering these questions can help you capture the essence of the person.
The obituary also generally includes the names of the closest family members who preceded the person in death. The names of those surviving family members are also listed, as appropriate, according to the relationship: spouse, children (and their spouses), grandchildren (and their spouses), great grandchildren, etc…step-children, etc… parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, and friends. Godchildren and best friends are often mentioned by name also.
When we talk about the obituary some people think of that which is printed in the memorial program, to be read by a designated person or to be read silently
during the funeral service. Others think of the obituary in the newspaper, which we call the newspaper notice. This is sometimes different than that which is on the program, in that it is not as detailed. The newspaper notice announces the person’s death, tells us who they are survived by and when and where the viewing, service and interment will be. There is usually a charge for the newspaper notice (also known as obituary in the paper). Because of this charge, families sometimes choose to shorten the obituary in the paper.
The obituary is a person’s life story. I believe that most people live life to the best of their ability. They love and touch someone. They make progress and accomplish things. They make a difference in someone’s life, large or small. As a result, a person’s life story should reflect their essence, their love and contributions.
Most funerals take place within 4-7 days of a person’s passing. Writing the obituary is just one of the many things that have to be done by the family. This one thing is important. Designate a family member or friend to take the time to adequately record one’s lifetime; one’s life story. The obituary will be a keepsake for family to cherish. The obituary is often kept in family albums for future generations to read, and is a record of family history that is precious.
Gail Valentine Taylor