American playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder once said, “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” To be sure, grief is inescapable, and a part of the normal human experience after a death occurs. But one way we can express our gratitude to our loved ones is through preparing a farewell that captures their essence and communicates what they meant to us and to the world. The team at Sunset View Cemetery & Mortuary has been honored to do that for our neighbors in El Cerrito, Berkeley, and Oakland for more than 110 years.
One of the oldest forms of paying tribute to a loved one is the obituary, which can be traced historically back to the time of the ancient Romans. While it has been called a number of different things throughout the centuries, the modern death announcement became known as an “obituary” around the 18th century. Obituaries have undergone a lot of changes throughout the years. For example, 20 years ago we would primarily read obituaries in the local newspaper, whereas now, online memorials are more popular. Publishing online is preferred because loved ones can edit content, include video and photo slideshows, and share easily and widely on social media networks. Families use obituaries to tell their loved one’s unique life story and to communicate key information about the visitation, service, or reception. What’s more, friends and family members can leave online condolences that appear instantly.
The ability to share a loved one’s obituary so widely increases the importance of creating a tribute that is accurate, vivid, and compelling. It’s a significant responsibility, but at Sunset View Cemetery & Mortuary, our caring staff has the knowledge and experience to help you with this. We realize writing an obituary can seem daunting, especially while dealing with the numerous decisions and tasks that must be made in connection to the funeral service. At a time when grief can overwhelm, we are here to help you find the words you want to say.
As you’re preparing to write an obituary, consider these tips to help you get started:
Keep it simple.
An obituary can be many things: a notice of death, a story of life, a family record, a request for memorial donations, a source of information about a funeral service, and a thank you to special people, institutions or groups who provided help and comfort. It is also a defining statement about the person who has died, so accuracy is crucial. If you are struggling with what information to include, we can offer step-by-step guidance, so you convey your loved one’s personality and contributions in a meaningful way.
Review the obituary to catch misspellings and verify facts.
Too often, errors slip by – names are misspelled, dates are incorrect, specifics are overlooked – which is why it is essential to have a number of people proofread before publication. Our caring team, available at our location in El Cerrito, will make sure to choose appropriate phrasing and confirm correct information.
Take care when selecting what to highlight.
Key points in an obituary include childhood, education, career, military service, hobbies and accomplishments. These details serve as a reflection of your loved one and present an opportunity to let his/her personality shine on paper. In many cases, an obituary is the only article ever written about a person’s life and may be the only record of existence that remains centuries later. We realize how important this is, and that’s why we post obituaries on our website free of charge for families we serve. Our online obituaries also provide links to send sympathy flowers and the ability to light a memory candle.