How can an obituary capture a person’s life?
What goes into a great obituary?
Looking for great obituary examples?
What Do Great Obituaries Have in Common?
You don’t have to be one of the great obituary writers to craft a great obituary. The most basic of obituaries include the facts about a person’s life: birth, death, education, spouse, family members, preceded in death, burial and service details, etc. And they read as nothing more exciting than a resume or standard LinkedIn profile.
However, the great obituaries are the ones that tell a story… that reveal personal details about the deceased person’s life and times. Everyone loves a story, and everyone wants to learn something. So, a life summed up can offer some rare gold nuggets of information. As the obituary writer, it’s your job to dig up those nuggets and reveal them in an interesting way.
At Lastly.com, we’ve seen countless obituaries. And we find that the great ones all tell the story of a person’s life in their own voice, using their own language, thoughts, points of view, and more. So, if you are tasked with writing an obituary for your loved one, a family member or a friend, then take their thoughts and opinions to heart. Think about what they would tell you if you were sitting down and having a conversation together.
- What would they say?
- What jokes would they tell?
- How would they want to be remembered?
- What would they want to be remembered for?
- What was important to them?
- What didn’t matter to them at all?
- What was unique about them?
- How did they find happiness?
- What did they do in their spare time that few people knew about?
- How did they influence others?
These are all essential questions when it comes to capturing someone’s being in such a final work.
NOTE: It’s best to have at least three different people to look over your obituary for any spelling or grammar errors as well as any factual errors. Family members may be upset if something incorrect gets is printed. If at all possible, we suggest hiring a professional to proofread the obituary for you. It’s worth the small investment.
Writing an Obituary as a Way to Heal
When a loved one dies, it can be a difficult time to capture their life in just a few words. But sometimes the best ideas come in times of struggle and pain, when we are challenged to stretch our hearts and our abilities to create something greater than we ever thought we could.
Writing can also be a healing part of the grief process. By taking a look at someone else’s life, it can help to put your own life into perspective. Maybe you don’t want to waste any more time in your life. Maybe you want to finish something that your loved one wasn’t able to finish or accomplish – something with meaning. Or perhaps, they should serve as an example of how you and others can live your own lives.
How to Start Writing an Obituary
The best way to start writing an obituary is to write what you know first. Start with how you came to know the deceased person. Describe some of your favorite experiences, memories, and moments with them, as well as what the person meant to you.
Your next step will be speaking with or interviewing those closest to your loved one. Reach out to people who knew them at different periods of their life, not just those who knew him/her recently. Be sure to ask open-ended questions that invite the person to tell stories about the deceased’s life.
Once you have all of your information gathered, decide on a theme or vision statement to create a narrative of your loved one’s life journey. You might provide a chronological account of the person’s life or you can choose another theme related to their philosophy, values, expertise, etc.
If you’re having difficulty knowing where to start, you can use a free or printable obituary template to help guide you through the process. Lastly.com provides several obituary templates as well as examples of notable obituaries.
Take the time to infuse the obituary with your loved one’s personality. An obituary doesn’t have to read like a boring book. By adding life, humor, and your loved one’s point of view to the obituary, you make it an honest, personal, and forthcoming account of their life.
Finally, consider including one or more of the following ways to open or close your obituary.
- Inspirational quote
- Scripture passage
- Famous saying
- Song lyric
- Good poem
- Anything meaningful to the deceased
Having the Final Word: Writing Your Own Obituary
To some, the thought of writing one’s own obituary may seem a bit macabre. But the truth is that it’s actually quite thoughtful to take on this task for ourselves. And who knows? You may even find it a bit fun.
Think about it. Your loved ones are in the midst of grieving your death. And with pretty much no time whatsoever, they have to be inspired to write something genuine about your life. That’s a pretty tall task for someone who has just lost a person who is near and dear to their heart and an important part of their life.
So, first of all, writing your own obituary takes this job off of one of your loved one’s shoulders and allows them some time to grieve in their own way. Your loved ones will thank you for it. In addition, you can probably write a better obituary than anyone else. After all, who knows more about you than you? When someone famous dies, do you think that reporters are scrambling to write obituaries and other articles about them? No. These pieces are written well in advance of a celebrity’s death, so they are ready to print on a moment’s notice. By taking the time now to write your own obituary, you’ll be assured of an honest, accurate (and less flowery) account of your life.
And telling our own life story, which is like a short autobiography, can also be a therapeutic experience. It gives you the chance to reflect on what happened throughout your life in order to make peace with the things you wish you could change. You may also be inspired to change or adapt your life going forward and to make the best of the time that you have left.
What to Do with Your Obituary Next
After your obituary is complete, you’ll want to submit it to any local newspapers, the funeral home, and any other appropriate publications. You may also want to include newspapers in towns where the deceased lived and still has friends or relatives living there.
You may want to give the obituary to the person or persons writing and performing the eulogy. The obituary can provide a great starting point for them as they write this important piece, which will be read at the funeral or memorial service. It can also serve as part of the death notice or the funeral program. Check with the funeral home director for any other suggestions.
Recording your obituary online is another option to consider. By publishing your work online, you allow other family and relatives the opportunity to view and print it at their leisure. And it also provides a permanent online record of your loved one.
Lastly.com also provides a great way to commemorate your loved one’s life. Through Lastly.com, you can upload photos, images, and videos plus record all of the places where your loved one lived or visited along with an account of any or all parts of their life. By creating a permanent, online memorial for your loved one, close friends and family members will always have access to their life history as well.
Great Obituary Examples
Now that you know how to start writing an obituary and what to include, here are a few great obituary examples to help inspire you.
Ronald L. Ezell
- - Our Dad died the day before the geese arrived. Ronald L. Ezell (July 28, 1939-October 1, 2018) breathed his last in the early evening of October 1, 2018. He left behind a son, Michael Ezell of Sparks, Nevada, a daughter, Rona who lives with her husband John Powers in Battleground, Washington, and another whom he raised and loved just as a daughter of his own, Theresa who lives with her husband Chris Mott in Redmond, Oregon. Our Dad died a loved and important man. We knew our Dad always as a man in the service of his fellow men. He was a man of unshakable conviction. He was a man of integrity and honor. And all animals on this planet approved him without reservation, but most especially all the horses and the dogs he ever had occasion to meet.
Of course we, his children, didn't know him his entire life, but we heard the stories of how he was first a farmer's then a coal miner's son and how he grew up in Southern Illinois in a day and time and area where horse-drawn wagons and buggies and plows were nearly as common as cars or tractors, if you can believe that. He talked about a farmhouse with no indoor plumbing or sanitation. I vouch this part, for when I was very young I trembled with fear when I had to use the outdoor facility at night on the very farm where this man, once a boy like me, ran about and played in the cornfields as if this kind of backwardness meant nothing at all. I remember electricity on that farm, but I also remember the soot of lamplight upon the old house ceiling and wallpapers. Oil lamps remained placed like stubborn sentries about the house and were often used as a more agreeable light source in spite of electricity. Most times for his children's part, I do admit for myself, we thought his stories inflated in memory and grown over-mythic somehow. He told stories that sounded like they were derived from the pages of famous American books like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. He told how he walked barefoot throughout the county; he told how he fished and hunted whenever he wanted and ate everything he caught. He told of a rich land that grew the best corn, tomatoes and melons; he told how not a scrap was wasted when it came time to slaughter a chicken, a pig or a cow. He told a romantic tale of a life of freedom and a life of hard work made easier by clever thinking and a way of living off the land not known to us today. Even if these stories of his were only half true, then he certainly saw a lot in his time. In the passage of his youth, he matured through the time of the horse to the time of' the hot-rod. And as he grew into a young man, he sustained his passion for both, the animal and the machine. I suspect that with each, he could admire and compare them by their horsepower! For my part, I believe like the gospel, the truth of every detail in the stories concerning this period of his life - now more than ever. Our Dad was raised a man of the earth. To him, living meant willful, cheerful engagement and doing.
When I was born, my father was an Airman of the US Air Force, serving around the globe, a patriot in the long, cold war. He had a wife, my and Rona's mother, Annette, and at the end of his tour he was ready to go home and make his family. But those were dicey times in those days and the Air Force retained him in service for "252 days for convenience of the government" by excuse of the Suez Canal crisis. For his job, he maintained strategic aircraft on SAC airbases from Goose Bay Labrador in the Arctic Circle to Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean. His stories of this time were also very loving and romantic and too many to tell you. But I will say, he talked of times when he had to urinate on his frozen hands to warm them enough to hold a tool on a snowy flight line during a never-ending night. He told of times when he was instructed to sit with his unit on a flight line, everyone wearing welding goggles, to watch an atomic bomb blast mushroom up in the tropical distance. And apparently, this exercise occurred more than once. What, I wonder, was the feeling of that radioactive wind blowing over these men and drying the pomade in their military haircuts; but then, what did they or anyone else know about it in those days? And since there were no horses on those isolated outposts and no dogs allowed on base, he learned the migratory habits of tasty crabs and he swam among sharks and giant clams and moray eels. And he told of even happier times on a now forgotten flight-training airbase at Stead, Nevada, happy because he could serve closer to family and home. And then finally the day came when my Dad was free and the Airman 1st Class came home for good. His years of military service were from September 17, 1957 to May 28, 1962.
Then my Dad, like a type-cast character in a play, stepped from one type of service into another. Seamless somehow, he went from protecting and serving his country to protecting and serving his community. My Dad became a Police Officer of the Reno Police Department when Reno was but a small town on an important road in the West, before the Interstate Highway System was real or gravel streets were thought worthy of paving and when individual, extraordinary men owned the glitzy casinos, and not corporations. Even then, I also remember how our Dad always had a knack for bringing everything he loved along with him. For example, he was instrumental in developing the RPD's first K-9 unit and I believe he went out with City funds to buy the Department's first batch of dogs. I believe that he trained these dogs and the men that would handle them. I can't remember a time in my early years when I did not play and cohabit with police dogs - Blackie and Flash and others. I remember them all, even if I don't remember all their names. Then our Dad developed the Department's first horse mounted unit. You see what I mean here. Through his career he witnessed increasingly turbulent and violent times. He was in the forefront when political agitators invaded Reno like bees from California hives. And when these dangerous times calmed down, his family found that even his daily routines presented peril. There was a picture in the paper of him on his Harley Davidson motor, pinned under the wheels of a tractor-trailer. He lay in bed at home a long time recovering from that one. Then later, as a Lieutenant he led CNU (Consolidated Narcotics Unit) when it seemed the whole sad world would capitulate in suicide by overdose, or permanently impoverish itself in hopeless addiction. He earned the nickname 'Ramrod' during this time, descriptive I thought, of bashing in drug dealer doors. He also told me how his team took down underground meth labs in their uniforms and street shoes, without any protective clothing whatsoever - but then, what did they or anyone else know about it in those days? He lived an exciting career, but I remember how his stories from this period of his life were not as romantic, not as lovingly recalled. I remember how he warned me of a trap of perspective when he said, "You have to be careful when you see the worst of the worst every day, because that's your job... careful that you don't begin to think that the world's made like that. You have to remember that the misery you see is all really, just a very little part." To this day I try to remember that wise advice when times are bad for me. Our Dad's years of service with the City of Reno Police Department were September 16. 1962 to March 15, 1990. He retired as a Lieutenant.
Our Dad spent the rest of his life, during what I call the "assessment" period, lovingly doing whatsoever he wanted and as he liked. Because he liked his Country, he was a lifetime member of the NRA and a Nevada Delegate, one or more times, to the Republican National Convention. He liked his family and wanted them near. He liked his friends and continued to make new ones though he had many. He liked to help, so he contributed to charities and causes beyond counting. He liked to tour the Gold Wing through the mountains. He liked his Brothers of the Masonic Pyramid Lodge 43 for they were thinkers too and served. Never greedy, he liked the vibe of casinos where he won more than he lost in his little low-stake games. He liked old Reno and he liked to eat Basque sweetbreads and oxtails and tongue and also imbibe some Picon Punch with the locals. He liked to watch the Derby and the other races for the Triple Crown, hoping to see a freak of a horse like Secretariat run one more time. He liked to watch a ballgame with his son. He liked his horses. And he liked his dogs.
And because we children with great loving liked him back - we shall miss him and honor him in our memory every day.
Patience now father, and know your children will return your ashes between spring and summer to a little country cemetery near where you began your earthly journey. Your brother Charles and your sister Janice are preparing a place for you near the spot in the country where you were born, in the very country where the three of you ran and played and fought with each other as the Ezell kids. For those who would like to see it, our Dad's marker will be found at Bethel Cemetery, between Benton and West Frankfort in Southern Illinois, in an area known to the locals as Dog Prairie.
Rest in peace Dad. We will miss you.
Even as a little girl, Helen Faison was teaching. And leading.
“I was a little sister and I was always being taught,” said Bernice Rose of Homewood. “She had that gift, you know, to teach.
“All the different situations in life, she was there, and I always knew she would be there. I always knew whatever I needed, she would be able to do it.”
Ms. Faison, a trailblazing African-American educator in Pittsburgh, died of natural causes Thursday at a nursing home in Forest Hills. She was 91.
“My sister was stable and unselfish and a hard worker with a marvelous memory,” Ms. Rose said. “She remembered all those students’ names. If she saw 100 out in the street, she could call each one’s name. She showed love. She smiled. Even when she was in the nursing home a lot of the kids worked there and she lit up when she saw them, she recognized them as being familiar and they showed her love. Wherever she went she saw someone she knew.”
In 1999, Ms. Faison became interim superintendent of city schools, the apex of a career with the school system that she began on 1950 as a teacher at Fifth Avenue High School. She also worked as a counselor at Westinghouse High School in Homewood, from where she had graduated in 1942. She later went on to become the district’s first female, as well as its first African-American, high school principal at Fifth Avenue High School in 1968.
“Helen Faison was the woman we all wanted to be when we grew up,” said Linda Lane, Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent. “She was smart, she was kind, and she had a heart for children. She was a premier educator. She had incredible credibility with educators and the community.”
Ms. Faison received three degrees from the University of Pittsburgh: a bachelor’s in education in 1946; a master’s in education in 1955; and a doctorate in educational administration in 1975.
“Her talent was really in teaching, but she never really taught those many years,” her sister said. “She was more in leadership.”
Those leadership roles included serving as an assistant and deputy superintendent for the city school district. She became assistant superintendent in 1970 and deputy superintendent in 1983, which, at the time, was the highest administrative position held by a woman in the district.
Ms. Faison retired in 1993 and became a visiting education professor at Chatham University. She later became the education department’s chairwoman and was chosen as the director of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute in 1999. She took a leave of absence from the institute the same year to serve as the interim superintendent for the city school district after superintendent Dale Frederick resigned. She was the first African-American to hold that position.
“She’s the kind of superintendent that most people would enjoy and appreciate just for the simple fact that she went through the system,” school board member Mark Brentley Sr. said.
“She was an educator. Then she was a principal. Then she had the opportunity to become a superintendent. Those are the ones you really look forward to working with at times of crisis. You can appreciate it because it’s working with someone who’s been there and done that and taking things into consideration.”
She returned to the teachers’ institute in 2000.
The Helen S. Faison Arts Academy in Homewood, now Pittsburgh Faison K-5, was also named in her honor.
“She didn’t really have much to say about that,” her sister said. “I really wondered. I said, ‘What did you think about it?’ but I don’t remember a clear answer that she gave because I guess it was sort of overwhelming to her … but she remained humble.”
John Tarka, former president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said Ms. Faison was comfortable going to both board meetings and football games.
“She earned the respect of everyone who encountered her throughout the school district and beyond,” he said. “She helped guide the district through some very difficult times. In my opinion she was the foundation of integrity and the foundation of high expectations for students and everyone who works in the district. She was one of the finest people I met in my life.”
In addition to her sister, Ms. Faison is survived by nieces and nephews.