Monday, January 24, 2011


Over the years, I have developed the habit of reading the daily obituaries in the newspaper.  I realize that this may seem like a strange habit---even ghoulish to some--- but obituaries provide very interesting insight into how we human beings think in death.

Seldom do I run across anyone I actually have known.  Mostly, the people whose lives are laid out in the death notices are local folks who have passed away in one fashion or another.  They are of all ages, colors and faiths.  They died of old age related issues, highway accidents, heart attacks, murders, suicides, war, and a multitude of illnesses.  Death may come with a crawl or a pounce, as the poet wrote.

I bring this subject up today because a few friends and I were talking about what our individual obituaries would be like.  We all wrote up what we thought would be a good, descriptive obit for ourselves.  I wrote one for myself that briefly described my life, my passions, and the fact that I am a Christian.  Then I listed my survivors. 

A couple of guys in the group listed all their accomplishments in business and awards and honors they have received.  A couple of others went into extensive detail about where they had lived, breaking their lives down into almost yearly minutiae.

But one member of our group had an obit that read thusly":

"Joe Gordon Died today.  He was a devout Christian."

I asked him why he was so brief.  He explained that, as a Christian, nothing else was important.  His achievements, awards, and distinctions of this life were unimportant---he couldn't take them with him where he was going---and God is not interested in anything of this world.

I thought about that for a long time.  He is right, of course.

But the fact is that obituaries provide a glimpse of what we humans think is important regarding our lives.  Usually, the obit is written by someone other than the deceased.  Very often, the obit is lengthy and full of praise for the deceased because of a guilt factor on the part of the writer.

Occasionally, the deceased him/herself will write the obit before death, so that it will properly reflect his/her view of self.  This is a pride factor.  So you see we have both pride and guilt at work during the grieving process.

Sometimes, humor is injected into the obit.  This can be interesting, in that humor and death do not exactly go together.

Many obits list the survivors.  It can be interesting to note the "pecking order" of those listed.

Suicides are particularly interesting.  It often involves language that seeks to circumvent the cause of death.  Something like "Fred Jones died suddenly", or "Molly Smith passed away at home".  Discerning the cause of death is left to the reader's ability to read between the lines.

A particularly favorite expression in today's obits is "...after a courageous battle with __________."

What are your thoughts regarding obituaries?  How would your obituary read?


  1. I always scan them too - and even peruse the ones online of my hometown paper in Wisconsin as I keep up with the "families" that way.

    Hmmm. When my mother-in-law passed a few years ago, we did not publish an obit as she wanted a "quiet" service. I rather liked that. I want to just slip quietly away from this world without causing a ruffle or a stir.

  2. How would my obituary read? I am going to have to think about this one.

  3. I'm honestly not sure, but you've set me thinking. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  4. Please Clint,
    come to earth! What a post...

  5. I don't think a person is morbid for reading the obituaries. It makes you you did. An Obituary can act as a type of thermometer of the it tends to reflect peoples "temperature".

    What would I want my Obit. to say? Perhaps something like...

    "She loved God and followed Christ"

    "Her physical body died...but her Spirit is alive with Christ".

    At any rate...I totally agree with your friend!
    Christianity is all that is really important.

  6. Thank you for looking at my blog as well. By the way, I absolutely agree with going to Church. I especially love Sunday School and have taught women. Still love it. Thank you for your thoughts!

  7. I will not have one. I have no need for someone who knew me 30 years ago to know of my passing. If they were interested in me they would have picked up the phone in those 30 years. That said, I do read them. I am always reading the ages because I want to know why so many people in my area die under the age of 50. Scary.

  8. I do not read the newspaper every day, but I also read the obituaries, because I'm interested in how the survivors deal with it.

    Greetings Sabine

  9. Texwisgirl---My dad did not want a funeral or service of any kind. We respected that. But he did get a brief obit.

    Mary---If I've got you to thinking, I'm happy!

    Monika---You make me laugh. Thank you!

    Shay---I agree with everything you said. And I love your blog! Often, I think we talk about church when Sunday school is often more uplifting and educational.

    Jane---I agree wholeheartedly.

    Sabine---I think there are lots of reasons to look at the obits, and that is a good one.

  10. I don't read obituaries because to be honest I have seen many pass away over the past 12 years.
    I know that is the only one sure thing that will happen to us all......but I don't want to think about it. I am getting to the age when the children are nearly middle age and the grandchildren nearing their teens.Perhaps to be honest death frightens me.


  11. Yvonne---Thank you for your honesty. I think most folks are a little afraid of death. I am not afraid of it---except for not knowing how Cindy will get along without me. God bless.

  12. Clint, my grandfather reading the obituaries and exclaimed: "even today not there are!"
    The day that did not read ....... it was!I'm not afraid of death, when God willing I will be ready!


  13. Depends on the circumstances.

    Greetings Petra

  14. I looked at the obits here in Sundays paper. In Detroit, we had no local obits. Some started with the simple statement passed. Then gave great details of the life. Others said went to be with their Lord and Savior and you knew what the family was trying to get across. I believe like your friend, no matter what else we do, nothing is more important than the fact we were followers of Jesus.