We have three selves: 1. Our inner person that we know all too well, warts and all. 2. The public or professional image we project. 3. The person others perceive us to be.
I encourage you to compose a concise story of the real you, covering your life until now. Think of it as an alternative to the conventional practice of leaving the wording of our obituary to someone else. I call mine an autobiographical obituary.
In addition to names of immediate family, education, degrees, work experience and honors, consider making your obituary warmer and friendlier. Let down your hair. Declare your strongest values. Share what gives you meaning and joy. Quote your favorite words of wisdom. Show your true colors. Get real.
Here I share brief excerpts from the introduction, body and closing of my first-person obituary.
I was born a war baby on Saturday, Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5, 1942, at 9:46 a.m. in Protestant Hospital, Nashville, Tenn. I am a Virgo of English and Irish stock. I was the first born of Clark Miller Willis and Georga Sain Willis. Thanks to them, I got off to a happy, confident and, therefore, privileged start.
My favorite prayer comes from Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings: “For all that has been, Thanks. For all that shall be, Yes.” The one word that I have treasured most and enjoyed using most as a greeting or salutation is the Sanskrit “Namaste,” which means “The image of God in me recognizes the image of God in you.” The aspirational behavior I have desired most and found hardest to attain is magnanimity.
Instead of flowers, please make a contribution to Louisville’s Habitat for Humanity or Ronald McDonald House. I got many more than my share of flowers while I was living than I deserved. Thank you forever.