According to an article in Psychology Today, writing your own obituary can be therapeutic and inspiring. It can help you prepare for the inevitability of death. It can inspire you to not just be simply swept along with the currents of life, but to consider the bigger picture, and the purpose of your time here. It can remind you to live “intentionally”, rather than just drift along. It might spurn you on to, in the words of country music’s Tim McGraw, “live like you were dying”.
As stated in the Psychology Today article, “[a] good obituary can be a great tool for living intentionally. It can give you clarity, direction, understanding and a great sense of purpose.”
Tips from “obituaryguide.com” on writing your own obituary include:
- Just get started
- Read other obituaries for ideas
- Say what your life means to you
- Find three words to sum up your life
- Use the obituary writing process to inspire yourself
- Include a recent photo
- Make sure your obituary is readily accessible upon your death
- Update as required
Another option is to create an “ethical will”. This is a document that outlines a person’s values, life lessons learned, and hopes for the next generation. (My ethical will focusses mainly on the issue of pineapples on pizza.)
Once the obituary is done, ask yourself the following questions, according to author/blogger Marelisa Fabrega:
- If I died today, would I die happy?
- Am I satisfied with the direction in which my life is headed?
- Am I happy with the legacy that I’m creating?
- What’s missing from my life?
- What do I need to do in order for my obituary to be “complete”?
It may not be too late to develop new content for your obituary.
Have a great weekend.
When someone composes an obituary for a loved one who has passed away, carefully selecting the photograph to go along with it, one would suppose that the last thing on their mind is the copyright they may hold in that obituary and photograph. Of course, few people expect that an obituary could be the subject of republication or possible copyright infringement.
However, one website has been reproducing obituaries in their “database of deceased people”, leading to questions about ownership of the obituaries themselves, as well as the photographs accompanying them. The website reproduces obituaries and photographs, apparently without permission from the individuals who originally created and posted the obituaries. As reported in this Global News article, one family even states that an obituary for their loved one, which had not been written by their family and contained a number of errors, was posted on the website less than a day after their loved one passed away. The family did not know who wrote the obituary, although the website released a statement that all of the obituaries they re-post are already on the internet.
A recent article in The Lawyer’s Daily discusses an application for certification of a class action copyright claim against this obituary database website. The application claims that the website is infringing copyright and moral rights in respect of the obituaries and photographs. The moral rights claim relates to the website’s monetization of the obituaries by offering options to purchase flowers, gifts, or virtual candles, through affiliate retailers. Some funeral homes offer a similar service, but the article notes that the unsavoury nature of the website’s business model, which consists of “scraping” obituaries from elsewhere on the internet, without permission or notice, and making money by doing so through advertisements or the selling of flowers or virtual candles, could provide some support for the moral rights claim.
In relation to the copyright infringement claims, there may be some obstacles to overcome, particularly in relation to ownership of the copyright. According to The Lawyer’s Daily article, under the Copyright Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42, the person claiming a copyright infringement must be the owner, assignee or exclusive licensee of the work in question. An assignment of copyright must be in writing. As mentioned in the article, this could create an issue if the photograph used in the obituary was taken, for instance, by a stranger.
Damages in the event of liability are also uncertain. In a recent case with similar facts, where the defendants were found to have infringed on the plaintiff’s copyright, the court awarded statutory damages of only $2.00 per image because the cost of capturing the images in that case was low. However, given the emotional aspect of obituaries, it is possible that the facts in this case could lead to a larger damages award.
Thanks for reading,
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Obituaries come in various shapes and sizes. There is no law setting out what an obituary must include, nor where it must be published.
A cursory review of our prior blogs on this topic indicate that humour appears to be a recurring theme.
The obituary for Mary Anne Noland, is no exception. The writer clearly had politics in mind when writing Mary’s obituary, which states:
NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68. Born in Danville, Va., Mary Anne was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School (1966) and the University of Virginia School of Nursing (1970). A faithful child of God, Mary Anne devoted her life to sharing the love she received from Christ with all whose lives she touched as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse. Mary Anne was predeceased by her father, Kyle T. Alfriend Jr. and Esther G. Alfriend of Richmond. She is survived by her husband, Jim; sister, Esther; and brothers, Terry (Bonnie) and Mac (Carole). She was a mother to three sons, Jake (Stormy), Josh (Amy) and David (Katie); and she was “Grammy” to 10 beloved grandchildren. A visitation will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 903 Forest Ave., in Henrico. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 18, 1 p.m., with a reception to follow, also at Trinity UMC. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to CARITAS, P.O. Box 25790, Richmond, Va. 23260 (www.caritasva.org).
While placing an advertisement in the classifieds section of a newspaper is a common enough occurrence in the administration of an estate, it is rare that a family attempts to get two birds with one stone, and advertises to prospective buyers for the deceased’s possessions in the obituary itself. The Toronto Star recently reported on a light hearted and humorous obituary which was recently featured in their newspaper which had gone viral on social media. In an entertaining nod to a life well lived, a family wrote an obituary for their late 94 year old mother which in part contained the following:
“She left behind a hell of a lot of stuff to her daughter and sons who have no idea what to do with it. So if you’re looking for 2 extremely large TV’s from the 90s, a large ceramic stork (we think) umbrella/cane stand, a toaster over (slightly used) or even a 2001 Oldsmobile with a spoiler (she loved putting the pedal to the metal), with only 71,000 kilometers and 1,000 tools that we aren’t sure what they’re used for. You should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch. Tomorrow would be fine. This is not an ad for a pawn shop, but an obituary for a great Woman, Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother born on May 12, 1921 in Toronto…”
No stone was (literally) left unturned by the obituary, where the family goes on to provide the following description of their late mother:
“Her extensive vocabulary was more than highly proficient at knowing more curse words than most people learned in a lifetime. She liked four letter words as much as she loved her rock garden and trust us she LOVED to weed that garden with us as her helpers, when child labour was legal or so we were told. These words of encouragement, wisdom, and sometimes comfort, kept us in line, taught us the ‘school of hard knocks’ and gave us something to pass down to our children.”
While some may call the obituary unorthodox, it is clear that she was well loved and will be missed by her family. At the end of the day that is all any of us can really ask for, as, in the words of her family, “(s)he leaves behind a very dysfunctional family that she was very proud of.”
Have a great weekend.
Obituaries attempt to summarize a life in a few short paragraphs in print or online. They may describe a person’s occupation and place of residence, list the person’s family and close friends, and set out the funeral or memorial arrangements that have been made. They might also set out the cause of death.
Stephen Merrill, a Florida resident, died at the young age of 31. His obituary states that he passed away on February 12, 2015 “due to an uppercut from Batman”.
The story behind this unusual obituary appears to be that the newspaper in which the obituary was to be published indicated that their policies required a cause of death to be listed. The family and friends did not know the cause of death at the time that the obituary was to be arranged.
While a well-written obituary, like Stephen Merrill’s, can bring some comfort to a person’s loved ones, obituaries can sometimes play a role in estate disputes. Disagreements about the wording of an obituary may be among the first arguments that occur about the administration of the estate of a recently deceased person. Omitting or misdescribing someone can lead to resentment and hurt feelings.
Sometimes, obituaries play a role in estate litigation. Where there is a dispute as to whether or not someone was living in a spousal relationship with the deceased, the obituary may serve as evidence. Here’s one recent example from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench where an obituary was used as evidence in support of a finding that someone was an adult interdependent partner of the deceased under the relevant Alberta legislation.
Of course, an uppercut from Batman could not have been the late Stephen Merrill’s real cause of death. Batman doesn’t kill.
On February 26, 2009, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) approved an application for a French-language specialty programming service that would be dedicated to the broadcast of obituary notices, notices of hospitalization and messages of thanks and prayers. The channel, called “Je me souviens”, will also air documentaries on the life of popular or important individuals.
According to a Montreal Gazette report, the station plans to go to air this summer. If it is successfully, the promoter plans to launch an English language channel for the rest of Canada.
The channel will be able to air national ads. The channel will also raise money by charging a fee, as yet undisclosed, for airing the obituaries.
Gerald Dominique, the promoter, says that his channel will give family and friends an opportunity to broadcast more information about their deceased loved ones: more than what can be published in a standard death notice. “My goal is that no death goes unnoticed.”
Thank you for reading.