Write my own Obituary?

January 4, 2011 — 23 Comments

Today I am participating in an exercise where you write your own obituary. This is a topic provided by a group of really good friends and fellow blog writers where we all select a topic and write on that topic all on the same day. I didn’t really want to do it  but thought it would be interesting to see what I came up with – no rewrites or edits allowed, 15 minute time limit. A traditional obituary has only 208 words so I am going to honor that standard. Ever wonder what your obituary would look like?


Bob Borson while searching for the Yeti in the Himalayan mountains


Robert Benjamin Borson died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92. Bob lived a full life and was surrounded by people who loved him, which was all he ever cared about. He is survived by his wife and true love of 65 years, Michelle, and his only child Kate – which Bob would tell you was the greatest project he ever worked on. Bob was a great storyteller, prone to hyperbole, and possessed an extreme lack of self awareness, often putting his foot in his mouth believing that he could always take it out later.

Bob spent the majority of his adult life as a practicing architect but starting in his early forties, he became a public speaker, renown for his ability to speak at exhaustive length without preparation. His reputation among other public speakers was mixed between admiration and disgust due to his cavalier attitude. Bob parlayed this ability into writing by starting ‘Life of an Architect’, something that he felt he was never any good at but forged on nevertheless with the same abandon that he tackled most things in life.

Throughout his life, Bob’s forthright  personality, often mistaken as abrasive, was softened by his profound desire to help others. He would thank you all for coming today … and then tell a poopie joke.


Okay, that was not as easy as I was hoping but did I learn anything? I learned that I love my family more than my job and that I can’t write anything very well in 208 words. Since it is my obituary, it’s supposed to be about me – but the urge to make this an open letter from me to the people who remain after I’m gone was overwhelming. I think a far better exercise is to write a letter to the people you want to say goodbye to now and then let someone else write your obituary.




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  • Gabiley2007

    Thanks  today  my teacher say you  must be  write essay about  your  own  obituary. i love  this idea  you write . i’m not native  English . it is my second language  many people  cannot understood   what, i talk about,  Really is difficult how you write  your own obituary  because  how you dead,when you dead ,where you dead ?   fell afraid   but i copy many idea in this  open latter,      funny 

  • Well, I’m NOT a public speaker, but I know a good blog post when I see one.
    This, Mr. Borson, is a good one.

  • so impressive!!!! wow!

  • I think I see your foot wedged waaay in back of your throat in that picture. I think you should have said you died from embarrassment after Kate grew up and showed all your photos at her wedding when she married a motocross detailing guy with tattoos.
    If your personality is so abrasive, why don’t you do a post comparing yourself to sandpaper? You know, in your afterlife.
    PS Now that you’re dead, can we talk about you behind your back? And does this mean I’ll have to get a new role model, er, I mean BFF?

  • … this is really good, Bob… thanks! I’m a bit of a public speaker myself, so what you said about speaking reminded me of a story about Abraham Lincoln. Someone asked him once how long it took him to prepare for a 5-minute speech. “A couple of days.” Shocked, they asked how long it took him to prepare for a 20-minute speech. “6-8 hours.” Totally befuddled, they asked how long it took him to prepare for a two-hour speech. “I’m ready right now!”

    I say this as a speaker who has been known to speak for eight hours (with two bathroom breaks and a short lunch break, of course)… so I’m right there with you!

    • Anonymous

      I’m assuming that you know about the things you talk about – I’m gifted at just starting and never ending. One story rolls into the next in a never-ending stream of talking.

      That’s actually not quite right but I tend to make my point through anecdotes and as a result, the path from A to B is never the same twice.

      Thanks for commenting – cheers!

      • Hey, without story-telling, most speeches induce sleep pretty quickly! It’s just that if you condense it down to the most important things you want to communicate, it keeps attention better.

        Another thing I discovered quite by accident… during an address a few years ago at the School of Architecture at Miami, I had way too much material to cover, but decided to plow through anyway… at a pace of just over 2 slides a minute. The Dean told me later “Steve, I sit in the back of this lecture hall a lot and watch as people speak, and normally, the students all are working on stuff on their laptops. But the energy of your presentation was so high that in moments, the laptops started closing, and in 2-3 minutes, they were all closed and they were listening with rapt attention.”

        I realized right then that I was onto something. So I don’t edit so much as I should, either. Instead, I use the pace as an energizing device, not only for me, but for the whole audience. Recently, I topped 3 slides per minute for the first time, and the crowd was electric.

  • I chuckled throughout this post…”often mistaken as abrasive”…Ha! Did you ever find the yeti?

    • Anonymous

      still looking, there are even more remote places I haven’t been yet. Ever vigilant!!

  • Anonymous

    I love this: ‘…often putting his foot in his mouth believing that he could always take it out later.’ And the silly photo, which you’re a master of, Bob. I like the 208 word limit, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day. Of course, you only die once, so I guess it’s worth the extra effort.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not sure why I always seem to select the most unflattering photos of myself … I mean, I have complete control over which picture gets used so why do I let these ones through?

      I actually hope that my obituary is crazy long when the time finally comes for someone to write it – but I think it would start and end very close to the one I wrote here.

  • Bob – I applaud you for weaving both humor and a serious tone into that – something I repeatedly tried to do but could not. I have to admit I like this exercise now that it’s done. Even if I wasn’t able to put my own obit down into binary code, I was forced to think about what mattered most. I try to tell my friends and family regularly how much they mean to me… and, probably because I lack a filter, how much I appreciate them being there when I need help fishing shoelaces from my throat.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks James, I appreciate you comments. There was a part of this that felt like pulling off a band-aid, sometimes you have to go quick and sometimes you need to take your time. Finding the balance is always the tricking part … until the poopie joke, always go fast with the poopie jokes.

      • “Always go fast with the poopie jokes,” I will treasure that (not the actual poopie but the advice) for the rest of my days… Again, great post.

  • I notice that in autobiographical obituaries, people tend to die in their sleep. It’s never a horrible accident at the lab or that the husband comes home. Always in their sleep.

    • Anonymous

      I am very safe when working in the lab so it is unlikely that I would meet my end there. I chose the bed and in my sleep because dying from exhaustion seems quite possible.

  • … a poopie joke… lol

    • Anonymous

      I thought about going with a “natural gas” crack but poopie works better with little kids. Thats a secret for you – always play to the kids, everyone who matters will appreciate it.

      • Walt Disney wants some money now from you for telling his biggest secret 🙂

  • I’ve found that my feet don’t taste that bad after a while. nice life, Bob, well done. hope to meet Kate and Michelle some day. oh, and you too. heh, a little sass there. cindy @urbanverse

  • Joseph

    I think you’re right about the letter to those who will survive being easier. Actually, my father did that for his children. We made copies of it and framed it. Some 21 years later it is still on the wall in my study.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Joesph,

      I had never thought about doing that until I literally wrote that line. Now all I am thinking about is getting started on those letters. The fact that your Dad did it and it’s framed and on your wall 21 years later speaks to its value.


  • Agreed on the writing letters for those you love. And, also agreed on the 208 and making it seem like obit.