How to write an obituary

         I know. Obituaries aren't something anyone enjoys talking about. In fact, when families are grieving, it's about the last item on anyone's checklist.  When a family is trying to deal with a death, whether the death somewhat anticipated or horribly unexpected, writing the obituary becomes an albatross.
         In most cases, it is a job that simply must be done, and done quickly, and the responsibility of writing the obituary usually falls to the person closest to the deceased, who has the most writing experience.  And usually, the extent of that person's writing expertise is somewhere between poetic stanzas of teenage angst and writing a yearly Christmas letter. In other words, next to nothing.
         How can you say no?  If someone in your circle is suffering and asks you write an obituary, the automatic answer isn't typically, "Oh, sorry. I can't. I just don't have enough experience." Of course not.  Instead, most well-meaning, part-time, closet, or recreational scribblers will accept the task without much thought to how difficult it will be.  But make no mistake -- it won't be easy.  You aren't just writing a story about a person, you're writing the last story about the person.
         Where to begin?  Well, I've come up with a way that works best for me, and I'll share it here:
         It is an honor to write the last words about a person--the great send-off.  The family and future generations will read the words for many years to come.  

*Dana Martin is a writer and editor living in Bakersfield, Calif. See more at