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Cary Brunswick

January 22, 2013

Like newspapers, obituaries have evolved


So, today, the choices are endless for what you might want to say in your own obituary or that of a family member, which can make it all the more challenging to proceed.

There was a time when I thought people should start writing their autobiographies at about age 30, with the idea that they would be just about ready to wrap it up when the time came to do so. Then, an obituary would be more like a “CliffsNotes’’ version of your life story.

However, how do you know someone is telling the truth in an autobiography? What if liberties are taken, and positive situations are enhanced and negative ones are played down or omitted altogether?

It may not matter. I believe it was Albert Camus who wrote that the lies one tells about oneself show us as much about that person as the truths. Or, to quote him, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.’’

In that case, our autobiographies become more like memoirs in which you are permitted to embellish your life experiences, using fiction to tell the truth.

So where does that leave us when it is time to write our obituaries, when you are permitted to state the unverifiable as if it were fact, and describe an exemplary life even if it were not?

Whether you’ve been working on an autobiography or not, it is never too early to plan your obituary. If you are still young, it can be a good exercise in deciding what you would like your obituary to say decades from now, sort of like setting goals and pursuing them.

Naturally, to state that you died, nothing happened, and went nowhere but into nothingness is really no more factual than saying you gloriously entered some majestic kingdom of the afterlife. I have yet to see an obituary that stated the deceased immediately descended into hell. Just in case, I guess no one wants to say that.

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Cary Brunswick

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