Writing My Obituary

(Originally written November, 1996)

My wife and I attended a conference several years ago where we were challenged to write out our own obituary. This form is very simple yet thought provoking. (CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FORM) Not only does this exercise cause us to think about what information others need to know when we die, but it prompts us to consider what we should be doing right now.

Interestingly enough I came across this simple obituary form again tonight just after reading some articles from a medical journal. I have a very rare disease which at the present time is well under control and certainly not life threatening. However, many cases become severe and cause major complications particularly in breathing. This led one article to state that only 74% of those studied live five years. I was stunned. I’m only 50 and certainly intend to live for more than five years. My grandmother is 101 and my parents are both healthy in their 70’s. But here I was faced, for the first time in my life, with the fact that someday I will die. No medication, hospital, surgery, or miracle cure will be able to save me from eventual death. I may live 70 years or 85 years, maybe more, maybe less.  Only God knows the length of my days on this earth.

Currently I have three close friends and family members that are dealing with tumors. They have each taken treatments and are confident that these will remain under control. Nonetheless, each of these has had to seriously consider their own obituary and their zest to live each day fully. Each one of us knows someone who is dealing with a serious problem, such as heart ailment, growing tumor, or malfunctioning kidney.  Life is fragile!

Sigmund Freud once stated: “Most men are convinced of their own immortality.”  Crippling disease always befalls the other guy. The fatal car accidents happen to “other people” on the six o’clock news and never to us. The fact of the matter is that we are all terminal; it’s not “if” but “when”.  The Bible* is explicit and replete in its reminders of the uncertainly and brevity of life:

“Each man’s life is but a breath…his days are like a fleeting shadow.”

“Man is a mere phantom.”

“For my days vanish like smoke.”

“His days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; when the wind has passed over it, it is no more.”

“What is your life? You are but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

In light of life’s uncertainty and brevity, Psalm 90 is ponderous:

“The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away…Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Write out your obituary this week. Then live next week with a new sense of purpose and zest.

Looking ahead while enjoying life!

*Psalm 144:4; 39:6; 102:3; 103:15; James 4:14

(Editors Note: Now 14 years later the disease has finally attached my lungs.  While being in ICU twice my family and I have had to deal with these very real practical issues.  I am glad that I have lived most of these last 14 years with the “end” in mind and realizing the brevity of life.)



About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

One Response to Writing My Obituary

  1. Cathy Westm says:

    “the heart of wisdom”… that’s a wonderful way to say it. Thank you.

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