Obituaries are the most interesting stories to read.

Our entire lives told in a few paragraphs.

You might think that is too short of a story to tell someone’s life story, but it’s not.

Read an obituary, and it tells when the person was born, where they lived and who their parents were.

An obituary explains their education, military service and work history.

You learn who the person married and the children they had.

We find out if they had grandchildren and great-grandchildren and maybe even great-great-grandchildren.

We also learn about their family; the ones who died before them and the ones they leave behind.

An entire life, including the people they loved the most, in just a few paragraphs.

It takes just a few hundred words to describe how this person spent their lives. Whether they served our country in the military, went off to various parts of the country to make a life and the type of work they did and where.

We find out about their volunteer work or organizations they joined.

We find out whether they loved the outdoors, kicked up a rug or built things with their hands.

Like a short story, an obituary tells it all.

What you don’t see in the final story written about us, is the stuff that doesn’t matter in the end.

Obituaries do not include a person’s wealth. It doesn’t list how many cars or homes or boats they owned.

Obituaries do not list all the stuff a person accumulated. The stuff we buy that fills up our homes are not what’s important.

When we pass, our loved ones will write about what made us special; what made us who we are; our personalities that drew people to us.

That’s the story obituaries tell us, that we were on this earth for a period of time, and for that time we made it a little brighter for family and friends.

I saw a television show once that talked about our tombstones, which lists our date of birth and date of death, separated by a dash, and it is that dash that represents the life we led.

That dash is our obituary.

That dash, as short as it is, represents our life, and people fill it in with their own special memories of us.

I think the question of how we would like to be remembered is a little odd because the people who know us best and love us the most will each have their own special memories of us.

Even though we are a family and spend years together, my wife and each of my children will have their own memories of me.

Yes, there will be shared memories of Christmases and trips to Disneyland, but within those memories will be feelings unique to each of us, and that’s what makes our lives special.

Those memories fit in that dash, and that dash will tell our entire life story in a few paragraphs of our obituary.


Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.