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"Genealogy Today", by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
From the Green Valley News, Sunday 27 April 2014, page B1

Write Your Own Obituary Before It's Too Late

It was Benjamin Franklin who said in 1789, "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." The Constitution still represents our democracy and death and taxes are as certain as ever.

While we can do nothing about the finality of either, we can make sure our passing is noticed by our friends and family. We will never see our own obituary in print, but it will be a lasting memorial in the eyes of others, especially our descendants. Obituaries are treasured by genealogists as the information they contain is sometimes difficult to obtain otherwise.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines obituary as, "a notice of a person's death usually with a short biographical account." If you want the account of your life to represent what is important to you, write your own obituary and advise family members that you have done so.

Who knows better than you the people and places that impacted your life and the dates when specific events occurred? If you read a few obituaries in the Green Valley News you will have no problem writing your own death notice.

Obituaries usually provide the birth date and place of the deceased, name parents, siblings, spouse, and children with their current residences and mention important events in the deceased's life. You may want to include education, occupation, military service, hobbies, and church affiliation. Space should be allowed for the cause of death, date and time of the funeral or memorial service and the burial place, facts to filled in by a descendant or officiate after your demise.

It's especially important today to state the cause of death in the obituary. The Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has caused some states to blot out the cause of death when death certificates are issued to survivors. While this is not the intent of the law, it is being interpreted as so. For medical history purposes, descendants should know their susceptibility to diseases and conditions suffered by their forebears.

Entrust your final draft to someone close for safekeeping and designate where you want the notice to be published. You will likely want your death notice to appear in your local newspaper, perhaps your hometown newspaper and those of any locations in which you resided for a long time. Once a free service, today we must pay for obituaries so you may want to keep the cost in mind when determining how much you write.

Scripture tells us, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die . . ." None of us will get out of this world alive, nor do we know the length of our days.

Many important decisions face grieving survivors when a family member dies. Consider writing your obituary as one last act of kindness for your loved ones. In addition you will be making your own decision on how you want be viewed by posterity. While we are here in full possession of our faculties we can plan how we want to be remembered and relieve our family of one less responsibility.

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