Megan Garber writes in The Atlantic (What’s an Obituary For?) that the purpose of an obituary is not to humanize, but to document “somebody’s broad impact on society … to aggrandize. To idealize. To strip people of their circumstantial banalities and elevate them to the status of models and standards and heroes — figures who transcend their own ordinariness.”
Thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms, we already strip ourselves of our circumstantial banalities and elevate ourselves to the status of models and standards of heroes. Which means we can leave redundant bullet-point, hero-making obituaries behind. Instead, we can create obitogies for those we love, and we can load them up with the things that humanize people, the things that make us love (or affectionately laugh at) them and that we’ll most remember when they’re gone – the meticulous way they stacked their bowls, their love for chocolate (unless it was in a muffin), their refusal to use any recipe that didn’t come from The Joy of Cooking…
Even those who don’t offer part of themselves on social media will be poorly served by a traditional obituary. An obituary chronicles the steps taken in a life, yes, but a eulogy celebrates the soul. Only the braiding of the two in an obitogy will paint a picture as rich and as unique as the individual.
Schools, jobs, trophies, and awards will never be the whole of a person. Even a person whose only goal in life is to attend the best schools, succeed at all the jobs, win all the trophies, and earn the best awards has tiny, little human details. She would only use the six-subject spiral notebooks to prepare for exams…
I'll just tell stories, pass them down.
Families with stories are fortunate, but it’s easy for story threads to fray over time. Important details may be lost; imagined details may be gained. A great-great grandpa of mine, for example, is rumored by family to have hacked off his own foot while drunkenly trying to chop down a tree. Great story, but is it true? Or did a lost pinkie toe story evolve over time into the worst horror story a foot has ever known (Hacked off at the ankle bone, it were, and he bled for a month straight!)? I’ll never know. But I can tell you that I’d much rather know the truth of the foot story than where he went to school and what his first job was.
An obitogy will be longer than an obituary, but that's okay.
It may have made sense, when newspapers were the only option for death records, to stick to the quick outline of a life of universal milestones. But now we have the internet and all kinds of room to say so much more.
Blogs and websites can be built at no cost* (Blogger.com, WordPress.com, etc.), and publishing as many words and pictures as you want is as simple as clicking “Publish.” Print your obitogy, and it can double as a eulogy to read at a service and give as a special gift to those who attend.
They say people only truly die when they’re forgotten. Because an obitogy celebrates not only what someone has done but also who that someone was, in a sense, they continue to live. And thanks to the publishing options available on the internet, they can be known and remembered for generations to come.
*If you don’t want to create your own blog or website, ObitsOnline.Net allows you to submit up to 2,500 words, up to 10 photos, and one video for $10 (for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518-223-6044).