the torch Summer 2015, Issue 2 - Page 4

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT “Older than me; younger than me; older than me; younger than me.” – from New Yorker cartoon. An aging man reading obits at breakfast, ticking them off to his wife Ethics are “habits that lead to thriving.” Ethics is the study of the way things ought to be. Ethics are a central component of any happy, healthy and mature life. Ethics define who we are and give us identity. So do obituaries. Obituaries are an excellent way to set forth a personal ethics audit. Obituaries are a great reminder – it is never too late to be more honest, fairer, more responsible, more courageous and more loving. Well-written obituaries can be works of art. The lead sentence is critical. It sets the tone, summing up the central characteristic or accomplishment of the deceased. It grabs your attention. You want to know more about the individual. The following, inspired by my friend Gary Fernandes, will briefly summarize some thoughts and prejudices into a few, easy-to-follow rules to ensure the last words you write will at least be well written and 4 hopefully, well appreciated. 1. Do not, under any circumstances, include the phrases “died peacefully” or “after a long and courageous battle with …” anywhere in the obituary. 2. It is ok to say, “He or she died.”  Other euphemisms such as “ushered to the angels, graduated to Phase II of God’s eternal plan” cannot conceal the fact that we’re talking about the fact that someone died. 3. Limit the survived by stuff. It is OK to cite a spouse as well as surviving children. Refrain from naming every grandkid, nephew/niece, aunt/uncle. 4. You must say the cause of death. It’s part of the legacy. Do not leave us guessing. If you don’t say, the reader will guess, think the worst and likely get it wrong. One of my favorites is “Joe died after losing a battle with the kind of things that just make our bodies quit on us when we get on in years.” 5. Use humor. Humor is an important part of life, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be included in death. For example: “He was a daredevil all his life. His last words were, ‘WATCH THIS!’” 6. Be truthful. After you’re gone it is time to focus on the truth. 7. Be succinct. You can do a pretty good job by crafting the three defining lines that sum up the person’s life. No eulogy ever praised one for the size of their home, or how extravagantly they lived. Many do mention individuals with character: they share acts of kindness; a listening ear, devotion to children. All are the essence of a life well lived. What are the three defining lines that sum up your life? Rowland K. Robinson President Baylor Health Care System Foundation Robinson@BaylorHealth.edu