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I’m Writing My Mom’s Obituary, and It Sucks

September 27, 2021
public domain obituary from 100 years ago (image via wikimedia)

My mom’s obituary sucks. I can say it sucks because I’m writing it. If somebody else were writing my mom’s obituary, I’d probably be polite and say that it was fine, but I’m writing it and I’m supposed to be a decent writer, but what I’ve written is just another crappy obituary.

And from a writing standpoint, obituaries suck. They tend to have too many weak verbs. There are too many names for a person unfamiliar with the family to remember. Obituaries are predictable; somebody’s always died recently. Frankly, obituaries are kind of depressing.

Despite all that, I’ve known people who would read the obituaries every morning. These people tended to be on the older side. You rarely see/saw young people read the obituaries on a regular basis. Obituary aficionados claimed they just wanted to see if they knew anybody who died. Some obituary readers joked that they wanted to make sure they weren’t in the obituaries themselves.

The people whom I knew who used to read the obituaries every morning don’t do that anymore because they’re… uh… they made it to the obi… well… they don’t have newspaper subscriptions anymore.

This whole obituary mess is because of an unusual situation. My mom’s husband, my stepdad, died in April this year, and my mom knew at the time she would be passing away soon (I’m not getting into all the details… they’re not important; it’s the obituary that’s important here).

Anyway, I wrote my stepdad’s obituary (which sucked, but it was my first one, so I wasn’t too hard on myself about it), and when I sent it in to the local newspaper, I had to also cancel my stepdad’s subscription. That was awkward. The last newspaper delivered to my stepdad’s doorstep was the one with my stepdad’s obituary in it. At least, that was the way it was supposed to work. Instead, the delivery guy kept dropping the papers off at my stepdad’s house every day, even though nobody was paying for them anymore.

Maybe the newspaper guy thought he was being nice by giving free copies out to a former customer. If that’s the case, it’s probably bad business strategy. If you are determined to give away free samples of your product, you should make sure your recipients are alive.

Unfortunately, my mom died about a month later, and I wrote her first obituary the night she passed. I don’t blame myself for a sucky obituary back then because I was caught in an intense phase of the grieving process. I’ve had time to think about this second obituary, and it’s still no better than the first one. It’s hurting my ego a little bit.

We need the second obituary because we’ve finally managed to schedule a combined memorial service for my mom and stepdad next week. The delayed memorial service is a bit complicated. We have two families and special arrangements for the service, even though it will probably be small (and hopefully short… in a respectful way). We need a new obituary to remind local friends and acquaintances of the service since it’s taken so long to set up. Unfortunately, the obituary hasn’t gotten any better.

The big problem with the obituary is that I can’t make it as personal as I’d like to make it. I think I’m more qualified to write a eulogy than an obituary. That’s what I’ll probably do, write a eulogy. And maybe I’ll post it on this blog.

I won’t post my mom’s obituary, though. It sucks, and it’s not going to get any better.

******

2021 has been a rough year for me. Both my mom and stepdad passed away, and I was close to both of them. Writing about my struggles with the obituary rather than the struggles with my grief might seem a little detached or inappropriate. Just so you know, writing this blog post is not the only way I’ve dealt with my grief; it’s just been the most relaxing.

9 Comments
  1. Hector permalink

    Sorry for your loss…been where you are and it sucks…take care of you and yours

  2. So sorry for your losses. Too close together with no room to breathe in between. I, too, wrote a bad obituary for my mum but really, they are much of a muchness if you read the papers. A eulogy allows you to make up for the paper shortcomings.

    • Thank you. I’m writing a eulogy now, and it’s helping because I’ve thought of some stuff that the person who is actually delivering the eulogy can use… I really hope that made sense.

  3. Condolences for your recent losses. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with grief. Blog away if it helps.

  4. I can relate to the feeling of writing a sucky obituary. I wrote my dad’s obituary and I don’t think it sucked, but despite my perfectionism, I submitted it with a bad grammatical error and the newspaper published it that way. You’d think they might double-check with me, or just correct it themselves, but no. That was 14 years ago and it still bothers me when I think about it. I wrote my dad’s obituary and jacked it up with bad grammar.

    • If anybody noticed the grammar error in your dad’s obituary, they probably blamed the newspaper.
      I had my wife proofread the obituary, and she found a couple mistakes, and then we got into a debate about apostrophe usage. Haha!

  5. So sorry for your losses. Everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace. The only thing that matters is that you loved them. Actually that was probably the best line that I have read in an obituary lately. “They were loved by all who were fortunate enough to have know them.”

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