DEAR ABBY: I read with interest the letter from the man who wondered if it was all right to write his own obituary. As an editor who has written obituaries for several community newspapers for more than 20 years, I can say that obituaries are causing more and more headaches in newsrooms. They are a potential can of worms.
Not long ago, a man in our small town died. His young widow brought in his obituary, naming herself and their children as his survivors. After confirming with the funeral home that the man had indeed died, we printed the obituary as she presented it.
Within hours, a woman came storming into the office. It was the deceased's former wife. She still lived in our town, and she was furious that her children -- who had been fathered by her former husband -- were not mentioned in the obituary written by the second wife.
Editors everywhere will bless you, Abby, if you remind the public of this: If you want to have control over what's printed in the newspaper, you have to buy an ad. I think the more control a person has over his or her obituary, the better. -- MS. M. IN NORTHERN CALIF.
DEAR MS. M: I concur. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In 1982, at the age of 53, I not only wrote my own obituary, but also had it published in the local newspaper. I did it because I wanted people to remember what I wanted them to remember about me, rather than leaving that decision to someone else.
That same year, I also prepared my memorial service, which I have updated several times. I plan to hold it during my 80th year -- I am now 73 -- and I plan to attend. I am inviting my enemies, for whom I will include Gene Watson's song, "Farewell Party," which includes the line, "I know you'll be glad when I've gone."
I am a published author, and at present I have originated more than 400 sayings. No, I won't read all of them at my memorial.
Following my actual death, I have requested that my ashes be scattered over Olivia Newton's ranch. For 30 years, I have attempted to have my picture taken with her, but so far, I have failed. It's good to have a goal. -- WAYNE K., PUYALLUP, WASH.
DEAR WAYNE: I agree that it's good to have a goal, but you shouldn't have to make an "ash" of yourself in order to achieve it. Assuming that Ms. Newton-John knows nothing about your goal, clip this column and send it to her fan club. Maybe she'll "honestly love it."
DEAR ABBY: I wrote both my and my husband's obituaries a long time ago. I did it because my last job was dealing with death certificates, and I know from experience that when a death occurs and emotions run high, important information can inadvertently be omitted.
I have even filled out blank death certificates with all the necessary information except, of course, the date of death and cause. Our funerals have also been pre-arranged and paid for.
In case you haven't guessed, I was a Girl Scout when I was a kid -- and I guess I took to heart their motto, "Be Prepared." -- WE DO HAVE THE LAST WORD, SPRINGFIELD, OHIO
DEAR "WE DO": And bless you for it. You have taken all of the guesswork out of a wrenching task that otherwise your survivors would have faced. I'm sure they will thank you for it in their prayers when the time comes.
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