Make Room For The Stuttering

Thinking About Life

Posted on: February 18, 2009

I am one of those people who read obituaries. I have always been interested in learning how people are described and remembered after their death. Some obituary notices are so short you have to wonder, did that person do anything note-worthy in their life. Or did that person just not have anyone who cared enough to write a brief history of their life? I wonder who will know me well enough to write my obituary.

I remember once facilitating an obituary exercise with young people when I was doing group counseling. I asked the young women to think about their lives and what they would want between the “hash marks” of their birth date and death date. It was a tough exercise! The young girls had never thought of how they would want to be remembered by friends and family. It gave us a reason to talk about some of the things they wouldn’t want to be remembered for. That was easy! They didn’t want to be remembered for causing trouble, fighting, gang activity and stealing, using drugs. But they couldn’t think that far into the future to imagine other possibilities.

To me that was very sad. Maybe that was the reason some people’s obituaries were so short. They had spent so much time doing things they would regret, that they never got around to doing the things that would make them and their families proud. I made the girls stick with this exercise, and soon they were coming up with things that they would like to accomplish in their lives, which then they could be proud of. And then they would have good memories. The girls came up with things like going to college, having children, helping others, saving animals, donating money to charities.

This exercise in writing an obituary actually helped us to focus on the good things we wanted out of life. It also helped the girls focus on the need to make things happen, instead of just waiting for things to happen to them. For many of these girls, it was the first time they had thought of life in these terms. They realized they had some control over how their lives could be lived and how they would be remembered by loved ones.

This exercise also helped me think of my life and my legacy. I remember sharing with the girls that I would want to be remembered for making a difference, for helping others, to have made positive change in my community.

Now, almost 10 years later, I wonder how those girls are doing and if they have made strides towards their life’s legacy. And I reflect on my own life, and feel pretty good about what I am doing. Part of my legacy is having the courage to think outside the box and ask people to explore ideas that they might not ordinarily do on their own. How many 16 year old girls would have engaged in an exercise to write their obituary while they are still living? What kid thinks about that? I hope something in their life triggers them to think back on that time where we explored how we want to be remembered.

I shared this with teachers I now work with, and one of my colleagues tried this same exercise with her students. She had amazingly good results, and came to share that with me. Maybe that’s how I will be remembered! That wouldn’t be a bad thing.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.