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Reflections April 2016

My Obit!

By Jim Cotsana

Hence, I’ve started drafting my obituary to include what I want people to know about me, maybe things they were never aware of. I want to have things in it that were important to me and not what others may think was important and meaningful.

When I get my local paper each morning and sit to enjoy that first cup of coffee, guess which section of the paper I go to first? That’s right, the obituaries! I suspect many of you are like me and do the same. All too often I come across people I knew well or was familiar with.

Some of the obituaries are very brief and to the point while others that take up several columns detailing many aspects of their lives. Most are in their 70s and 80s and sadly, some are much younger. Many of the accompanying photos look like their high school graduation pictures rather than ones that reflect their true age. However, I suspect we all were better looking at 18 than at 81 (just say'in).

As I read more and more of these, it got me thinking about my own obituary. Now don’t get me wrong. I am only 68 years old, don’t smoke or drink, get my yearly physical and also visit my dermatologist, exercise regularly, and try to stay in relatively good shape (hah, writing this down, one could say I lead a rather boring life). In any event, I’m in no hurry to get my obituary published. However, when my time is up – and you never know –  I want to have it written by me and not have done it by someone else.

Hence, I’ve started drafting my obituary to include what I want people to know about me, maybe things they were never aware of. I want to have things in it that were important to me and not what others may think was important and meaningful. In addition, since this will most likely be the last thing they read about me, I want to throw in humor along with some self-deprecating humor hoping to make people laugh and smile. Regardless, I’m having fun writing this since it need not be a totally sad affair.

I have a lawyer who is the executor of my estate and I’m the only trustee since my wife passed away in 2007. Once I complete and am satisfied with my obituary, he will have it on file along with the instructions I’ve previously included in my trust and will, along with my advanced directive.

I personally think the advanced directive is an important document. By definition, it’s a legal document signed by a living competent person (me) in order to provide guidance for medical and healthcare decisions (such as the termination of life support and organ donations) in the event that person becomes incompetent to make such decisions. My lawyer has this document on file as well as my as my primary healthcare provider.

Although I am a widower and have no children, I do have a number of adult nieces and nephews I’m very close with. I keep telling them when I ask them to do something for me they better say yes with a smile. I tell them I have an eraser next to my will and revocable trust and can easily make any required “deletions” as necessary. When they do help me out with a task, they ask, “Am I still in the will?” I say, “Yes, for the time being so don’t screw-up.” I have the reputation of being the “loveable grumpy old uncle!”

You also need to keep in mind there are several things you need to research concerning the publication of an obituary. Some publications have specific style guidelines, restrictions on length, and a fee. Some will only accept obituaries directly from funeral homes and some will only publish obituaries written by the newspaper staff. Hence, it’s highly advised to check with your newspaper to determine what their specific guidelines and terms are. For those of you that may need some help getting started, there are obituary guidelines you can find online that step you through the process.

Regardless of how you might like to proceed, start a draft and have some fun with it. Show people what you did in life, the choices you made, point out those who meant the most to you, along with activities you were involved in. Remember, it’s your obituary and it should read the way you want to be remembered.

 

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