How to write your own obituary

“How are you going to be remembered?” Brad Meltzer asked the audience of a webinar hosted by the National Society of Leadership and Success.

What seemed like a writing seminar from the title turned out to be a talk of how everyone affects each other and the legacy people leave behind. Meltzer, best-selling author, had the opportunity to read his own obituary after he asked a reporter to write it. The writer gave Meltzer his obituary, filled with his accomplishments, but incomplete as it finished with the phrase, “He was a…” The phrase left Meltzer wondering what the rest of the obituary would read. “He was a what?” Meltzer then turned the question to the audience. “Who are you?”

In looking back on life, the things done for oneself and the things done for others have to be separated in this grand question, evolving it into “Who will remember you?”

In an obituary, one might have their job listed, their accomplishments, but it is the last time their resume will be uttered. What lasts after the obituary is long printed and forgotten is the legacy that anyone leaves. The legacy and the impact the deceased had on people is what everyone will remember, explained Meltzer.

Meltzer started on family, telling his story, but ending on the point that family builds on who each person is. The sphere of influence then extends to friends and teachers. Our mentors influence us beyond what they can imagine. Meltzer’s English teacher had an enormous impact on his life, leading him to eventually become a writer, even if she had no idea of her influence on her students. Then the sphere of legacy extends to the communities people build around themselves, and finally, to random strangers. The people we help who we do not know are still a part of our legacy. All these people will remember us.

“Use your power,” Meltzer encouraged. “I believe ordinary people change the world.” It does not have to be as historic as writing the Declaration of Independence, but rather can be the act of being nice to one person. Everyone thinks and dreams about doing things beyond themselves, but seem ordinary and boring, like Clark Kent.

Going back to the impact of a “giant” in his life, Meltzer pressed the audience to thank those mentors, and through the thanks become a giant in their lives.

Meltzer ended by stating that someone cannot write their own obituary, but through his or her legacy, he or she can live forever.

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