Obituaries – Are They Sad or Joyful to Read?

Discovering the two most important words to have answered in a obituary

Living intentionally with two words in mind will drive us to living a life well lived. 

Admittedly, I don’t watch the news, however I am a bit embarrassed to admit I enjoy reading obituaries of strangers. I know, sounds morbid, right?

Reading about celebrities who have passed in 2016 (i.e. George Michael, Doris Roberts, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, etc.) can leave us feeling melancholy. Reading obituaries of loved ones who passed well before their time and/or heroes such as people like my amazing cousin Commander Trish Englund can also give us a sense of great sadness, anxiety and/or doom.

Why then would anyone want to read through obituaries?  

Learning from other people’s experiences, how they lived, and how they died is a great way to learn about life. Depending on who has written the obituary, often times we can catching a glimpse into the lives of strangers and loved ones by learning about: 

  • Where they worked or what they did for a living
  • What types of things they enjoyed doing 
  • Places they visited, lived, or volunteered at 
  • Their beliefs and faith
  • Their material status, family and friends
  • The reason they passed away

What can reading obituaries provide us?

Reading obituaries gives us a reason to STOP and face reality. Today more than ever we are a society made up of busy people that are rushing here and there. We are:

  • Providers for our families who can be trying to keep up with all the sports, school or extra curricular activities our kids are involved in
  • People under a lot of stress from our jobs, finances or relationships
  • Folks just trying to get through the daily grind of life

Reading through obituaries can give us a much needed dose of reality that reminds us that no matter what, in the end, we all have a finite time on this earth.

It doesn’t matter what things were left on our to-do list that day, what relationships we hadn’t had time to mend yet, or how much more money we wanted to have in our bank accounts…someday, our life as we know it will end. 

What are the most important things every person should want answered in their obituaries?

While thinking about our own death may sound depressing to some, I encourage you to look at your own obituary as a driving factor to answer the two most important words… “WHO” and “WHAT.”

Using WHO and WHAT can answer things such as: 

  • WHAT will I be be remembered for?
  • WHAT do I want to accomplish?
  • WHAT made me laugh or joyful?
  • WHAT or WHO have I put my faith in?
  • WHO have I made a meaningful impact on?
  • WHO will miss me or who did I make smile?  
  • WHO have I loved and WHO loved me? 

Knowing what we want at the end of our lives gives us a clear focus on what steps to take in our daily lives. Here are three examples of what that can look like:

End of Life Goal  

Daily Goal Resources to Get You Started
I want to have a million dollars in my account to give to my family and loved ones, give away to charity, and/or to buy nice stuff throughout my life.  I will spend 5 minutes on my budget.

Books to consider:

5 Minutes a Day to Living Beyond Rich 

Living Beyond Rich

My Total Money Makeover

Budget Tool:

Every Dollar (free)


Financial Peace University 

I want to have meaningful relationships throughout my life.  I will spend at least 5 minutes each day being intentionally present (NO distractions such as phones, TV, etc.) with my loved ones. I will look into their eyes when we are talking in person and listen intently without my mind wandering. 

Books to consider:

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Daring Greatly

Love Does

 I want to have some great adventures in this life. 

 I will spend at least 5 minutes doing something that will lead me to my big goals. These can be things such as: 

~ Taking a Overseas Vacation – I will set a goal date and start gathering information on where I want to go.

~ Running a Marathon – If I am a couch potato I can start by taking a 5 minute walk around the block.

Books to consider:

Living Beyond Awesome 


Join a club, gym, take a community class, etc. 

My encouragement to you is to ask yourself:

  • WHAT type of life do I want to live and what intentional action steps can I take today to create that life?

While life may not always turn out how you expect, know that it can turn out much better than you ever imagined once you start clarifying your life goals. Don’t wait to read about yourself in the obituaries…do something TODAY and make your life extraordinary. 

WHO has been a great example of someone that has lived out their WHO or WHAT in a powerful way?


Thank you for taking time to read. If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

If you would like more information on having Jen speak or train at your next event, please reach out to her directly at

Jen McDonough (aka The Iron Jen) helps organizations cultivate courageous leaders as leaders and team members will learn how to:
~ Build Resiliency
~ Become situationally aware of complacency
~ Adapt to change
~ Recover from setbacks
~ Reduce stress
~ Overcome obstacles
~ Removal of self-limting barriers

Looking forward to serving you.

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