What would your obituary say?

Val Patterson decided to take matters into his own hands.

Knowing he was dying of throat cancer, he wrote his own obituary, which was printed after his death on July 10 in the Salt Lake Tribune.

In it, the 59-year-old confessed to everything, from filling a park’s geyser with rocks to being banned from Disneyland and Sea World San Diego for life.

“As it turns out,” he wrote, “I AM the guy who stole the safe from View Drive Inn back in 1971.”

His Ph.D. from the University of Utah was a fraud. In fact, he didn’t even know what “Ph.D.” stood for. And his only regret was smoking cigarettes, which ultimately led to his throat cancer.

It was just so honest, so revealing and so real. It was actually refreshing to read someone tell the truth — and in their own words.

So often we remember only the good in people after they’ve passed. And while that’s appropriate — why dwell on the bad? — it’s not a complete composite of the person at all. We’re supposed to accept each other, faults and all, so why not admit to them?

My favorite part, though, was his parting advice: “If you want to live forever, then don’t stop breathing, like I did.”

All this made me think: what would I want my obit to say?

Back when I was a reporter at now-defunct The Honolulu Advertiser, we had to write our own obituaries and save them to what was labeled the “Undead” folder. I remember reading through them in between interviews and writing. Some were simple and basic; others ran for hundreds of column inches, noting every event in their lives, even the mundane. Some were funny, even quoting themselves.

I never wrote one. I didn’t know what to write.

So if you had the chance to write your own obituary, what would you say? Would you confess to everything the way Patterson did?

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10 Responses to “What would your obituary say?”

  1. John Book July 18, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    I don’t know what I’d want to say in mine. I’d be worried what others would say about me, but I would be dead so it’s not as if I could tell them “you didn’t spell check, did you?” I did write an obituary for an auntie, which was appreciated by her kids.

    There was a time when I had wanted a tombstone, which would have one last statement, maybe one or two sentences. But my last wish is to be cremated and my ashes to be strewn out at Ka’ena Point. Even if what I write about as a journalist is sometimes an extension of who I am, I hope that if I still have family or people who still call me friend when I am gone, they can at least read one thing I’ve written and have a small sense of who I was, what I did, and who I tried to be. Without ego, I think if someone shows up for one last goodbye, that would be nice. We’re all heading towards the inevitable, might as well make this existence a good one.

  2. rayboyjr July 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Hey Cat … hmmm … interesting idea … except that I could just as well lie about stuff in my obituary … I’d love to embellish on some things, you know …

    … but as long as I have free reign to divulge about anything and anybody else … then yeah, why not? … I could spill the beans on not only myself … but on every little secret I’ve kept for anyone I’ve known throughout my life … and that would be something …

    … if that’s the case … hellyah!!! …

  3. gigi-hawaii July 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    Hi Cat!

    Long time no see. SteveM mentioned your blog on the Warrior Beat tonight, and I wondered whatever happened to you. So I googled your name and discovered your new blog.

    Congratulations on your marriage. Couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

    I’ll put your blog on my favorites list and will visit daily. Promise.

    • Catherine Toth July 23, 2012 at 7:00 am #

      Glad you stopped by!! Always love having the original crew get in on the action!

  4. David Jackson July 19, 2012 at 3:53 am #


    ‘My prayer is that in the next life my activities of this life don’t start me too far behind the pack, or cause me to have to spend too much quality time with the pointy tailed one.’

  5. jaydee July 19, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    I think writing your own obit is a good idea; after all, who knows you better than yourself?

    I don’t think I would include a vast array of confessions but maybe a few apologies. Like the time I beat up Alex Gonzalez in the 5th grade. Ok, I hit him once in the face and made him cry. Sorry Alex.

    I would also include many thanks to the people who help me be the man I now am; good bad or indifferent.

    Good idea Cat. I better start now because you never know when your number’s up!

  6. Annoddah Dave July 19, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    CAT: I have had several relatives and my Mom who did not want their obit published. Maybe mine would say…”I lived and I died and had a blast!”

    • Catherine Toth July 23, 2012 at 6:59 am #

      I love that!

      How come they didn’t want their obits published…?

  7. gigi-hawaii July 19, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Why is my comment awaiting moderation?

    • Catherine Toth July 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      SORRY! I had to move my blog to another server and all “new” posts were put into moderation. Sorry about that!

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