When there’s a death in the family, clients will turn to you for help regarding the next step with their estates. They may be struggling with other issues related to funeral planning – like how to write an obituary or a eulogy, and dealing with downsizing the deceased’s material possessions. The Doyenne of Death recommends these three recent books for answers.
The New York Times Book of the Dead
You know you’ve arrived – and departed – when your life is chronicled in a news obituary in The New York Times. The New York Times Book of the Dead, which pulls together 320 print and 10,000 digital obituaries of extraordinary people, also illustrates how the news obituary has changed since the newspaper’s first such article in 1851.
News vs. Paid Obituaries
Many in the general public do not know the difference between a news obituary and a paid newspaper death notice. The funeral home facilitates placing a paid death notice/obituary for grieving families when they make funeral arrangements.
A news obituary is a story or article a newspaper reporter writes about a notable person. The family doesn’t pay for a news obituary, but they also have very little say regarding what gets written about the deceased.
The factors that make a person’s death newsworthy can vary widely. The categories in The New York Times Book of the Dead include World, American and Business Leaders, Groundbreakers, Thinkers, Athletes, Warriors and The Media. It features notable luminaries from the literary world, stage and screen, popular music, classical music, dance, and the visual arts.
Everyone can be outstanding in their field in some way. I generated a news obituary in a tennis trade publication for my Uncle Arthur, who collected an immense amount of tennis memorabilia in his lifetime.
The New York Times Book of the Dead and its online counterpart offer a valuable resource for researchers, historians, obituary writers, and those who appreciate a “you are there” approach to the life stories of extraordinary people. It can also inspire funeral directors and families to take their obituary writing to a higher level.
Having the Last Say
As the baby boomer generation ages, its members are looking ahead to the biggest challenge of all: making sense of life in its third act. This segment of close to 40 percent of the U.S. population is feeling the march of time and seeing their contemporaries start to die.
If you were to capture the legacy of your life in one small story, what would that story be? And how would you write it? Check out Having The Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Small Story by Alan Gelb.
Gelb, a writing coach who also wrote the best-seller Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps, helps readers construct brief narratives that can share formative experiences and values – also known as an ethical will.
If you’ve ever sat in a memorial service and thought, “I wish I could hear the voice of this person one more time,” a “last say” story can help fulfill that wish. The book helps people understand:
- Why writing a “last say” is important – a keepsake that can help others understand who you are and who you were, and serve as a personal statement to be read at your own memorial service, if you so choose.
- How to write a 500-1,000 word “last say.” It starts with pondering questions about key moments in your life.
- What the process of writing a compelling short story about one’s own life involves.
Explains Gelb, “The ‘last say’ retains the purpose of an ethical will – to pass ethical values from one generation to the next – but looks to the narrative form to create a more engaging reading and listening experience.”
KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die
This book’s title and subtitle, while lengthy, says it all. On this blog, AAEPA’s Steve Hartnett has highlighted some sections of this book by yours truly, Gail Rubin.
KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die attracts baby boomers to consider end-of-life issues by first getting them to deal with their excess material goods.
The first two-thirds of the book focus on reasons to downsize, creative ways to get rid of clutter, and smart steps to take, such as appraising artwork, jewelry, musical instruments and homes. At least ten of those points focus on mental and emotional tips to start lightening one’s load, such as “Release Your Attachments,” “Clear Your Clutter, Clear Your Mind,” and even “Get Cats to Help Clear Your Clutter.”
The last third of the book examines the many aspects to consider when planning for end-of-life issues, including estate planning, advance medical directives, financial management, and funeral planning. Funeral-related to-do items include “Write Your Own Obituary,” “Shop BEFORE You Drop,” “Investigate Funeral Insurance Options,” and “Make Your Funeral Plans.”
KICKING THE BUCKET LIST includes an AAEPA-approved 50-point Executor’s Checklist, which details the many responsibilities a named representative must carry out on the decedent’s behalf. That list alone drives home the importance and benefits of downsizing and organizing for end-of-life. You can get a free PDF download of this list through this link: http://agoodgoodbye.com/kicking-the-bucket/use-this-executors-checklist-to-smooth-estate-transitions
Consider adding these three useful books to your professional or personal resource library in 2017!
Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist, is a death educator who works with organizations to connect with baby boomers and seniors concerned about end-of-life issues. She uses humor and funny films to teach about sensitive topics. Visit her website for updates and tips: www.AGoodGoodbye.com.
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American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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