I have a Google alert set up for my name. In the past I used to keep track of the searchable trouble I'd gotten myself into, but now it's mainly obituaries and death notices of people who share my name. Usually I just delete them but the most recent alert provided a stark realization: When I die I'll only have the second-best obituary ever written featuring my name. Because Gene Newman of Hillsboro, North Dakota clearly has the best.
Born April 16, 1950 (coincidentally the same day, though not the same year, as my dad and aunt), he worked as an over-the-road truck driver (with a perfect driving record), loved to walleye fish, and his family has a great sense of humor. I know this because it all came through in the vibrant, funny, and personal obit. Plus, his photo makes him look like a cross between Steven McQueen and Charles Bronson, only with a mustache both of those tough guy icons would envy.
I work at a place that helps people plan, both for life and death. While it's often more interesting and captivating (yes, sometimes creepy) to focus on the death part, it's much more useful and rewarding to deal with life. Our goal is to map out all the components that comprise our lives, the fun (tips, lessons learned, recipes) and the official (Will, Power Of Attorney, Advance Directive), and organize and share this stuff in a way that makes it easy for your family and loved ones to settle your estate and carry on after you're gone.
We're fully aware that death awaits us all, and we have those tools too. One of the most popular things on our site are the how to write an obituary and death notice features [template | checklist | downloadable worksheet], which offer the basic outline to craft these literary memorials. We lay out the components, but it's up to your family, friends, and close confidantes to bring the personality. You can even write your own if there's a final message you want people to hear. Obits aren't just about relaying funeral details and letting the world know you're dead, they serve as a way to remember how the person lived and all those they leave behind.
The Newman Clan, as they proudly call themselves (as well as the motley Newman Crew), definitely honored their dad, grandpa, uncle, and brother. Having never had the pleasure to meet the man, I get the feeling he had a lot of people that genuinely cared for him, and his life had its share of laughs. In passing, he even managed to cheer up a stranger 1,500 miles away via Google alert:
As his family wrote, "Happy Trails, Gene, and enjoy your time with other departed family members at the great Scotch Distillery in the sky."