Published September 11, 2020
“The spoken word is ephemeral. The written word, eternal. A symphony, timeless.” – A.E. Samaan
One of the most remarkable ways to immortalize someone’s legacy is through writing. There’s just this sense of permanency and perpetuity about putting pen to paper that makes it so beautiful and comforting.
An obituary is designed to acknowledge someone’s passing while reflecting on the life they lived while alive. It can be short and straightforward, informing people of their death, their surviving loved ones, and their funeral details. But obituaries can be so much more than that; they can be powerful and moving or light and comical or serious and somber. Whatever the case, you should know that there are many ways to write an obituary to capture the essence of someone’s life in full.
What details should an obituary contain?
When writing an obituary, there is some essential information you’ll want to include. These serve as the backbone of your piece, providing a stable foundation for you to play around. Generally, you’ll want to include six items standard for any obituary, and these are:
- Personal Information: This includes all the basic information about a person, including their name, age, and birthplace.
- Announcement of death: This part sheds light on how the person died and when they died. It could include the date, place, time, and cause of death (optional).
- Significant life events and details: You’ll want to list down several significant elements, including hometown and other places they lived, employers and positions they held, military service and rank (if applicable), school and degrees and honors earned, favorite hobbies and interests, and memberships or organizations they were a part of.
- Surviving family members to list: Include immediate family members first: children and spouse, followed by siblings and parents, then more distant relatives in grandparents and cousins.
- Funeral/Wake/Memorial details: Mention the date and time these events will take place, who are invited, and what to bring (i.e., potluck dinner).
- Flower and Financial donation information: You’ll want to specify where you want the flower and financial donations to be sent. Additionally, if you designate a specific charity to receive donations, mention them too.
Who should write the obituary?
You have many options as to who will write the obituary. You can select someone from the family to write a personal piece, making it much more intimate. Alternatively, you could hire a professional writer to write it. You’ll simply have to provide them with all the necessary information your family would like included in the obituary, and you’ll have an obituary that will most likely be more than presentable.
We recommend the former, as this could greatly help the grieving process. A fantastic example of an obit written by a family member is this one for a man named Joe Heller. This particular obit effortlessly balanced humor with reverence, creating a heartwarming and cheerful story, which most likely reflected who Joe Heller was when he was alive. This obit became immensely popular among professional writers because of its wit, which was borderline offensive. If someone was especially close to the deceased, they might make a great candidate for this role if they are willing, being the most capable of capturing who the departed was.
However, there is nothing wrong with having a professional writer or funeral director write it for you. We understand how difficult it can be to lose someone, and gathering up the strength and stability to write a good piece may be too difficult for some. It is absolutely acceptable to come up with a straightforward, no-frills obit.
How do I make an obituary more beautiful and personal?
The trick that most professional writers would recommend is to think of five central words you associate with the deceased. These words provide your obituary its primary theme and voice, allowing you to share details of the person’s life accordingly.
What made Heller’s obituary so engaging is that it delivers all the necessary information with a refreshing twist. Instead of the usual monotonous obits, it became more of a eulogy, exuding tons of character. It would be best if you also tried to reach out to other intimate friends and family to get stories they want to share. Keeping in mind the obit’s central theme, you should share the anecdotes in line with those.
Of course, there isn’t one rigid format you ought to follow when making an obituary, but there are tons of templates online for you to check out if you need the extra help. We hope that this article helped clear up some questions you may have had before reading this.
About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.