Last year teacher Emily Phillips died and the obituary she wrote for herself went viral (Ed Mazza, “A Teacher Writes Her Own Obituary,” Huffington Post, 3 April 2015). A lot of people thought it was a terrific idea and anyone who read it has to agree. Among the classic lines it contained, “I was born, I blinked; and it was over,” struck me as a great truth, but at the same time a genealogical disappointment. Where were you born? Who were your parents?
This wasn’t the point. Emily was sharing the things she valued most about her life – not what fills in blanks on a genealogical chart. Her sense of humor at the end drew hundreds of thousands of views to mark the passing of someone they’d never met.
It inspired something else, too. What a great idea to avoid the inevitable lists of survivors and accomplishments. Put it in context and make it fun. Say what is important – show, don’t tell. Like the verse on an old tombstone – the picture it conjures is so much clearer than the name or the dates. There’s more to life than names and dates and places.
Melinde Lutz Byrne