How Do I Write an Obituary?
One of the ways to successfully prepare for the loss of a loved one can be started at any point in their lifetime—the obituary. This special tribute is a summary of life, from birth to passing, in whatever length you require to share their story.
In a short space of paper you can outline the list of when and where a person was born, names of their parents, names of siblings if any, where they grew up, where they attended high school or beyond, what they did in their career, and professional awards they won. Then, you add in more family—who they married, the names of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. These are the basic elements that outline a person’s life.
Then, there are special characteristics that define a person even more closely in terms of hobbies, sports they loved, crafts, and how they spent their free time, whether devoted to family, charitable groups they worked in behalf of, or other areas of endeavor.
In writing an obituary, I recommend you write “everything you know” out first, using the above areas as a guideline to share. Then ask yourself if there’s something missing from this description where you’d like others to know about your loved one. Many times, they do many good works in life but no one hears about it. Sweet, special facts like that are good to share. Next, if there’s something humorous or a trademark characteristic about their personality, that may well be worth sharing, too. Now, does your finished product look like you’ve told the story (in brief) of someone’s life?
The final phase is to determine what your budget can afford. Today, our newspapers will print a complimentary Death Notice, when someone passes away. It contains their name, day they died, and who is handling their arrangements. Whether it’s the Bryan-College Station or any other city newspaper, there is a standard charge (by length and word count) for an obituary (as you’ve written so far) appearing in their paper for one or more days. How long your obituary is in the paper will set the cost and your Funeral Director can give you a projection at your consultation meeting.
Prices are something to consider in deciding the length of obituary you wish to see appearing in the local and hometown newspapers where your loved one lived a substantial part of his or her life, and when many friends remain in that town, it is a good idea to run the obituary there, also. The smaller the town is geographically, typically, the less costly it is to run a longer obituary.
Although it can be slightly off from this number, a typical obituary of less than 300 words can run about $400 in the local newspaper. The price is set based on column inches of space required.
Callaway-Jones does not charge for placing an obituary on our own website and it remains there permanently along with your loved one’s photo. As an example, check out the beautiful tribute custom written for David K. Johnson, a respected community member who passed away in April: https://callawayjones.com/david-kohler-johnson/
Another benefit to seeing your loved one’s full obituary always on our website is that it is easy to find. The more time after a loved ones’s passing, the more archived the newspaper source could become and in that respect the smaller towns may not archive their back issues online for more than a fixed period of time.
Here’s an example of a custom tribute that was around 5,400 words but each one was precious to describe the fascinating and storied career of an academic equivalent of “Indiana Jones” as he sought out history of linguistics, Garland Cannon: https://callawayjones.com/garland-hampton-cannon-jr/
Also, if your friends and extended family don’t learn of your loved one’s passing until a few months after the fact, they can still leave condolences messages for you (and re-initiate contact if you’ve lost touch with one another) on our site.
It’s not about the length of the obituary as the priority in telling your loved one’s story–but for some families it is a cost issue, and our families tell us they appreciate that they can run an abbreviated obituary in the newspaper but have their full tribute on our site as part of our complimentary family care.
It’s never too early to begin writing a tribute for your loved one, whether or not you have any idea of their imminent passing. It is at emotional times, however, where it is more difficult to remember many of the fun, poignant memories that you’d like to share with others. It’s also helpful when you have the person themselves sharing their own stories for the future in a pleasant setting where illness is not the motivating factor.
We have a Certified Life Tribute Writer on our team who is available to meet with your loved one and hear stories and discuss the life and career of your family member or friend who might wish to preserve that information now for one day far down the road. Please give us a call any day to discuss this with one of our funeral directors or bring it up in a preplanning meeting you might schedule with our preneed counselor, Shelby Swoboda.
Finally, when you sit down to write this document that attempts to encapsulate the best times of a person’s life, remember that just as important as their being happy was their strength, faith, and courage to see themselves and other loved ones through tough times as well. That is so much a part of the story that often remains untold, but when revealed, becomes inspirational to others to read.
How do you want to be remembered? Give us a call, during our regular business hours, at (979) 822-3717, so that we can help you consider your wishes. We are always here for you.
Cody D. Jones ‘02, Owner & Community Member