Proof will be sent to the mods.

Basically, I work at a newspaper and my main job is to write and edit obituaries. Obits are usually submitted to us by funeral homes, but a few times a month I get to write original obits after interviewing the family member(s) of someone who died.

Ask me anything!

EDIT ONE: I have to go run an errand but I should be back in about an hour or so to answer more questions.

EDIT TWO: Thank you everyone for the awesome questions! I never expected this to be so popular. If you have any other questions, let me know and I'll be more than happy to answer them for you.

Comments: 211 • Responses: 92  • Date: 

puritycontrol36 karma

Why do obituaries rarely tell what the person died of? I mean, that's really the only interest I have when I look at that part of the paper.

SmartBacon30 karma

It's up to the family and/or the funeral home. Most of the ones that I do include it. It's a personal thing, not a requirement. The reason we don't make it a requirement is because if the person dies by suicide, we don't want to force the family to include that information.

RambleMan12 karma

When my dad died, I wrote the obit with my mom. Our first rule: say what he died of, because people want to know. I hate guessing based on "donations to the hokey-pokey foundation" instead of flowers bullshit.

SmartBacon10 karma

Yeah, I plan on including cause of death for any obits for family members that I'll probably end up writing. I like to know the cause of death. Some funeral homes that we work with a lot will call us and talk about the dead person though, so sometimes I get to find out even if it's not in the obit.

RambleMan30 karma

I'm quite proud of the final line of the obit I wrote. Feel free to use it if you wish. We chose to exclude donations with the personal belief that people should donate to whatever causes they want to, not because of my dad's death. The cause of death was listed earlier; people could support something related to that if they chose to. We were also aware that a large portion of the people reading the obit were not financially well off and didn't want to involve money/expectation of financial donations in the obit.

"In lieu of flowers or donations, please hug someone you love and tell them how special they are to you."

SmartBacon15 karma

Best obit ending. You rule.

DetectiveClownMD20 karma

Do you critique obits or know when a writer like you wrote it? Oh and do you always read obits since you write them?

I picture you on vacation reading an obit and thinking "Ha, this is definitely hack work! Survived by!? Come on what is this 1999!?"

SmartBacon18 karma

Ohhhhhh yes! I don't read obits on vacation (I try to forget about work), but I do critique obits written by people I know. And even people I don't know. People in my area are really awful writers.

ruperthackedmyphone12 karma

Have you ever done this?

SmartBacon16 karma

HAHAHAHA. No, oh my god that would be terrible. We make typos sometimes and when they're submitted they often have mistakes, but I hope that something like that would be caught before printing. Obits go through a pretty serious editing process before we publish for that very reason.

celtic18886 karma

Dammit... beat me to it

ruperthackedmyphone3 karma

Sorry, but even if OP has a story even close to this, I'll be happy.

SmartBacon6 karma

Sorry to disappoint!

TaxicabKanefessions11 karma

Are obituaries written differently if the person dies from murder?

RadioactivePlatano10 karma

I work at a funeral home and provide the information to newspapers for their obituaries. Rarely (in my area) is the cause of death printed. It's usually something along the lines of "went to be with the Lord" or "Entered into rest".

SmartBacon30 karma

I love seeing how creatively people can say "died." Most people say "died" or "passed away" in obits at my paper. The best one we got was, "went to her Heavenly feast to be reunited with the Lord Almighty Jesus, son of God."

The_Alaskan11 karma

I edit obituaries as part of my job, and my favorite of all time was "reunited with her creator spirit."

SmartBacon9 karma

Oh my gosh, that's awesome! I like the more spiritual ones or the religious ones that aren't Christian. We get so many Christian ones that it's just a nice change sometimes to see a creative wording for "died" based on a different religion. There's nothing wrong with the Christian ones, I just like seeing things changed up.

RadioactivePlatano7 karma

That's pretty... Out there. I've see families put "Gone to be with her maker" or "Left her place here on earth to join God as angel". People can be creative.

SmartBacon11 karma

We have one funeral home in particular who gets REALLY creative. I think they're just trolling us half the time. They're funny.

BellaTragedia3 karma

I want mine to say "she is finally getting her forever nap" :p I never get to take a nap.

SmartBacon2 karma

Hahahhaa! That's a good one. You should definitely include that.

NocturnusGonzodus2 karma

I fully hope for mine to include the ENTIRETY of the "This parrot is no more" dialogue from the Monty Python bit.

SmartBacon1 karma

Hhahahahahhha. That'd be hilarious!

liarandathief11 karma

Entered into rest sounds nice. Confusing, but nice.

RadioactivePlatano8 karma

It is. Usually it's for older people who have passed from a particularly gruesome disease.

liarandathief8 karma

The problem with euphemisms is they are confusing to people, especially children. People trained in death notification (doctors, police, clergy) are taught they must say explicitly that the person is dead or has died. I realize obits not the same, but still, it shows a deep discomfort with death.

SmartBacon11 karma

I would say this is true. Usually the most religious people get pretty creative with the way they say "died." The Amish people in our area (we have a small community of Amish) just say "died" though. They're pretty stoic about death, from what I understand.

Copperline1 karma


SmartBacon1 karma

Midwest, but not PA. Sorry!

SmartBacon8 karma

Nope. The way obits are written are purely up to the family, funeral home and/or writer. And sometimes the newspaper. My newspaper is very affordable for obits, but bigger newspapers can cost upwards of $300 or more dollars just for two sentences.

Faalllccccooooorrrrr7 karma

why do they cost so much? Does that include someone else writing it?

SmartBacon7 karma

Because it takes up space in the newspaper, and that's valuable space. It's cheaper than an advertisement, but it's basically the same thing. The bigger/more popular the paper, the higher the cost.

amstard9 karma

Whats the most interesting obituary you've wrote?

SmartBacon24 karma

Our best obits are WWII veterans because they are usually filled with little historical tidbits. I once did an obituary for a guy who served under Gen. MacArthur. I also did an obit for someone who was part of the Caterpillar's Club. The most interesting obit I did was a double obit for a married couple who both served in WWII - I think he was Marines and she was Air Force, but I don't remember perfectly - and died a week apart. Their obit was very long but it told a beautiful story of their life together. Brought me to tears.

HBlight6 karma

I have 24 hour window to post about the caterpillar's club before it is no longer a valid TIL. I wont post about it, but thank you for giving me the option.

SmartBacon7 karma

You're welcome, though I think you should post it.

AGoodMan3249 karma

This is great. I'm also an obit writer/editor and found this AMA a few minutes ago while at work. Told everyone in the department and we're having a great time going through all these questions. All the best from NJ!

SmartBacon6 karma

Awesome! Hope you're having as much fun as we do!

oneday7528 karma

Ever had to write/edit an angry obituary? Where the person who died was hated by their family, so the entire obituary was just about how shitty of a person they were?

SmartBacon9 karma

No, because we don't tend to print stuff like that. However, I have talked to family members that were angry they had to do an obit. They just wanted the basic information and said, "If it wasn't for the fact she had a lot of friends here, I wouldn't be doing this." They didn't even list survivors.

slycomet7 karma


SmartBacon6 karma

They don't have to do an obit, but they felt pressured to do it because she had a lot of friends in the area who kept calling and emailing them asking about their grandma. They just said that they didn't like her. I didn't get why because I didn't want to pry - could have involved abuse or something.

Eh_whynot8 karma

Does this job make you sad?

SmartBacon9 karma

Sometimes. I get sad when we get obits for people that have no family or friends, or when their family/friends don't want to do an obit because it's a burden. I just imagine their lonely lives. My co-workers and I try really hard to make sure our office is a fun place since we work with death so much though.

Masterfornicator7 karma

How did you get the job?

How much does it pay?

Have you ever had anyone who was dissatisfied with your work?

SmartBacon12 karma

I applied for it after seeing the notice online. I make $12/hour, which is standard for entry level positions at a small local paper in the midwest USA. We don't send proofs, but we do make sure that we print only the information requested. The only complaints I get are from readers of obits who are pissed that we didn't include a church's address (which may change the price, as our prices are based on length) or something dumb like that. They don't even know the person most of the time.

EuchridEucrow5 karma

Let's be honest, finding a job at a newspaper in 2013 is nothing short of a miracle.

SmartBacon4 karma

Depends on what part of the country you're in, but yes. I'm constantly looking for a reporting job but I'm not having the best of luck. Our newsroom is full of young reporters though, and a lot of smaller papers are like that.

nsgafc6 karma

I'd really like to see you try and write an obit for a John Doe.

SmartBacon18 karma

Jan. 1, 1950 - March 30, 2013

John Done

John Doe, 63, of New York, New York, died Saturday, March 30, 2013.

John was born Jan. 1, 1950, to Jack and Jill Doe.

John was a private man, but he was very well known.

His survivors include his wife, Jane Doe; his children Jim and Jen Doe; his brother Jeff Doe; and his dog, Fido.

His parents preceded him in death.

Visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 1, 2013, at End Of The Road Funeral Home, 123 Main St., New York, New York. Funeral services are at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at the funeral home.

mabvs18 karma

and his dog, Fido.

slow clap

SmartBacon7 karma

You wouldn't BELIEVE how many people add in their pets in their obits. I love it. I'd definitely want my cat included though.

InukChinook9 karma

John Done

Done as dinner.

SmartBacon6 karma

Well shit, that's a funny typo. Oops!

HBlight3 karma

You missed some details. The venerable /u/johndoe was Dec. 2 2005 - Feb. 13 2011, he was a Britney Spears fan, among the first anti-repost warriors and thought ideas were awesome.

Also, since this is a redditor we are talking about, clearly had a cat.

SmartBacon4 karma

Oh well shit, that's really funny. I'm relatively new to Reddit, so I wasn't even aware of this awesome person!

HBlight3 karma

There is almost always a subreddit or a user about anything.

SmartBacon3 karma

I'll keep that in mind! :)

LongAw8tedFriend6 karma

Does anyone ever request a negative or bitter obituary? If so, what do you do?

SmartBacon9 karma

Never have, but we wouldn't print it, depending on how bad it was.

HBlight5 karma

What about negative sounding but positive intentioned?

"SmartBacon was a salty old fart and the world is sadly a sunnier place without his griping, rest in peace friend."

SmartBacon7 karma

We've never encountered anything like that, but we'd probably discuss it (our whole department and probably a senior editor) and decide. I'd say probably not, even though it'd be funny.

flippityfloppityfloo6 karma

What's the most outlandish obituary you ever wrote/edited?

SmartBacon12 karma

We don't really get too many outlandish ones. I think the strangest one was for a guy who died after drinking a gallon of vodka everyday for 30 days. We didn't end up including that info in the final obit though (at the request of his landlord, who submitted the obit).

defythedesign5 karma

I don't even understand how it's possible to drink 150 odd standard drinks in a day let alone back it up. For a month.

SmartBacon12 karma

Which is probably why he died.

nneighbour4 karma

Is it usual for a landlord to submit ab obit?

SmartBacon3 karma

Oh no. Usually it's a family member - child, spouse or sibling - or the funeral home.

wootwooter25 karma

What do you think of this man's obit?

SmartBacon4 karma

That's really, really funny. I don't think we'd print something like that, but we would print "He loved cars, guns, booze and women" or something like that. There's some opportunity to have fun in obits.

iaccept7day5 karma

I enjoy writing obituaries for fictional people who lived awkwardly tragic lives. Is it possible to have my obits published in a respectable newspaper without confirmation from a funeral home or any other source?

SmartBacon7 karma

I highly doubt it. We require verification at our newspaper, and we won't even begin writing an obit until we have verification from a funeral home, cremation service, medical school (in case someone donates their body to science) or someone else who handled the body. I'm sure that this happens at bigger newspapers too.

ETA: The main reason for this is to avoid angry friends or family members who submit an obit for someone who is dead to them, but still actually alive. I haven't had a situation like this, but someone I used to work with did. She ended up leaving the person who submitted the obit a voicemail and never heard back.

rddt19835 karma


SmartBacon7 karma

If it's free, we'll change that. If the family/funeral home is paying for it, we'll leave it. Obit charges are determined by the newspaper. Our newspaper offers a free version because we're a small town paper, but most of our obits are paid.

pickleman9003 karma

Do you ever get emotional when you are writing?

SmartBacon8 karma

I used to when I first started, but not anymore.

pickleman9003 karma

Do you see death in the same way still?

SmartBacon7 karma

Not at all. Actually, when I first started, I used to have panic attacks if I thought about death too much. I didn't realize writing and editing obits would be part of the job until my first day. Writing/editing obits and working with funeral homes and mourning families has really made me more comfortable with death. It's just a thing, now. I still have panic attacks, but they're rare.

pickleman9003 karma

Thank you for the answers

SmartBacon6 karma

Of course. :)

madrantings3 karma

How did you get into the job?

SmartBacon5 karma

I applied at the newspaper I work at. They had a notice online for it and I needed work.

BrutusHFX3 karma

Have you ever found out about a friend/acquaintances death from having to write their obituary?

SmartBacon8 karma

I haven't, but my co-worker did. It wasn't a person he knew too well, so he wasn't broken up about it. I'm writing a short story about a person who finds out about his mother's death that way, though.

kraftymiles3 karma

You ever read Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon? ABsolutely beautiful story about an obit writer.

SmartBacon1 karma

No, but I'll check it out!

ughatheistzealots3 karma

i DO NOT WANT an obituary. is there any way to make sure my horrible parents don't make an obituary for me even though they know it's against my wishes? (child abuse, sexual abuse, you name it. and i will die before them most likely.)

SmartBacon5 karma

Put it in your will that you do not want an obituary printed in the event of your death. That's the only legal way that I can think of if your parents are still in your life and you die first.

irishwanker2 karma

I heard people are dying to get into your line of work.

I'll show myself the door.

SmartBacon5 karma


czmoney2 karma

What is the most badass story the family asked you to put in the deceased's obituary?

SmartBacon3 karma

We had an obit for someone who was part of the Caterpillar Club. That's super badass.

DeutschLeerer2 karma

Did you ever packed an easter egg /hidden joke into one of the obituaries?

SmartBacon6 karma

We haven't, but the funeral homes do sometimes I think. We had someone who died of an accidental electrocution and somewhere in the obit, it said, "the world is now a dimmer place." We lol'd a lot in the office at that.

nessefi2 karma

Can you write a pretend obituary for me? I'm a 19 year old poor college student. You can make up my cause of death:)

SmartBacon4 karma

Sure. I just need to know your gender identity/preferred pronouns and I'll whip something up for you.

nessefi2 karma

Awesome! I'm a male - don't really have preferred pronouns, just be as creative as possible.

SmartBacon6 karma

Okay, give me a bit. I'll work on it.

nessefi1 karma

I'm excited, thanks!

SmartBacon12 karma

Okay, here goes. I hope you're okay with your cause of death.


March 3, 1994 - April 1, 2013

Nessefi, 19, of Collegetown, went to go party with little baby Jesus for eternity on April 1, 2013. He had been malnourished for some time.

He was born to Fred and Melinda (O'Brien) Nessefi on March 3, 1994, in a small town known as Pawnee, Ind.

He graduated from Pawnee Community High School and was a student at George Washington University, where he had yet to claim a major.

Nessefi was known as a party animal, as he attended nearly every party on campus. While people were never sure how to say his name - or spell it once he pronounced it - he still made a lot of friends. He never knew a stranger.

His many college friends said he took up veganism in the months prior to his death, which is what they thought caused him to lose weight and become very pale. After he died, it was discovered that he had been eating very little, and nothing of nutritional value. His malnourishment, as it turns out, was due to a lack of money. Nessefi had tried to find an on-campus job, but his FAFSA status disqualified him from work study, which also forced his parents to work two jobs each to pay for him and his older sister to attend college.

Surviving are his overbearing yet loving parents; his older sister, Sarah; several aunts, uncles and cousins; and his cat, Dog.

His grandparents preceded him in death.

Friends may visit the family from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at the Chetum and Howe Funeral Home, 1313 Unlucky Drive, Collegetown. The funeral service is at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the funeral home. Burial is in Pawnee Cemetery.

Memorial donations may go to the family for his sister Sarah's college fund.

2876patter2 karma

Good one..made me laugh. Someday I would rather have an obituary like this that makes people laugh. Maybe I should write my own to use someday in the future. Great AMA, thanks.

SmartBacon2 karma

Thanks! I definitely suggest writing your own - or at least having an idea. The funny ones are rare but they're the best.

nessefi2 karma

Wow this is fantastic! What goes into this work and how long does it take you to finish someone's whom you do not know.

SmartBacon2 karma

Thank you! :) We talk to the family member(s) pretty extensively. Once we have all of the necessary information, it takes about half an hour to write it up and edit it well. Sometimes longer, depending on how much information the families give us.

zakkaz32 karma

why don't obituaries include cause of death?

SmartBacon3 karma

The family or funeral home doesn't include it. Many of the ones that I do include the cause of death though.

HBlight1 karma

Has this changed your sense of humour? Do you feel you could cope with personal death any little bit more from finding yourself immersed in mourning much more than the average person?

SmartBacon2 karma

Yeah, definitely. I'm a little more morose in my humor now. I think I'd still mourn a lot if someone I loved died, but I'd be able to go through the motions of taking care of arrangements a lot better than I would have a year ago before I started doing this.

most_impressive1 karma

How am I going to die?

SmartBacon3 karma

You'll have to write your obit to find out.

theinternetaddict1 karma

Have you ever got an unusual request?

SmartBacon3 karma

Someone wanted us to just get all of the information from the hospital, which we can't do because of HIPAA. One person included that people could send memorial donations in her honor to President Obama's re-election campaign (this was last June), which is really funny regardless of your opinion of Obama.

simonsutty1 karma

what do people do to be remebered the most, What things stand out to you as being the most amazing?

SmartBacon1 karma

To me, the most interesting obits are people who were my age during WWII, because they have little tidbits of history in them. I like the people who write about their travels or their relationships with other people. My favorite obituary I ever partially wrote/mostly edited was a double-obit for a couple who died a week apart. Their obit was more of a love story, and it was so sweet. Their kids really paid a great homage to them.

chefboyardeeman1 karma

Hows the job market nowadays?

SmartBacon1 karma

Pretty bad. We just hired a part-timer and we're looking for free interns. Most newspapers just don't have a lot of ability to pay salaries and benefits for a lot of people anymore. I'm looking for a reporting job and it's not going well.

Under-your-bed1 karma

Who will write your obituary when you pass?

  • Live long and prosper.

SmartBacon1 karma

I'll have it pre-written once I'm older (probably in my 60s, depending on my health). That way, my spouse and/or children won't have to do much.

muzztime1 karma

Do you enjoy your work? Would you rather write about something else?

SmartBacon7 karma

My work isn't awful, but it isn't what I want to do. I eventually want to get into reporting.

ContinuumGuy1 karma

I've read that at major newspapers, they write the obituary before a well-known person is dead, so that it's on file. While obviously you presumably are not at the New York Times or anything, have you ever written a obit (even as practice) before the person was dead?

SmartBacon2 karma

Nope, we don't do that. We get 15+ obits a day on average, so there's plenty of practice.

giggl3puff1 karma

Have you ever written your own obituary for "fun"?

SmartBacon5 karma

Nope! I refuse to tempt fate. I know what I want it to say, but I'm only 23. I'm not giving the powers in the universe any reason to justify killing me early.

EddieAndStachee1 karma

Have you ever thought about who you would want to write your obituary?

SmartBacon3 karma

I've told my coworker that if I die while we're working together, he and my boyfriend and parents need to work together on it, but to give it some personality. I'll eventually write it myself when I'm older, but I do feel some superstition about writing my own obituary at 23. I'm not trying to tempt fate.

pteroso1 karma

Can you please decode the common euphemisms? Like "died at home" is suicide.

SmartBacon6 karma

I think you're reading too much into obits. You can definitely die at home without killing yourself. Old people do it all of the time. A lot of people go to sleep and never wake up. We get calls on the police scanner all of the time. The only common euphemism is the way people say "died."

Y_Z1 karma

Why do obituaries need to include the names of the deceased's parents, even if they aren't still alive? I understand it could be for identification, but it seems to detract a bit.

SmartBacon7 karma

We don't require it, but I understand why a lot of papers do. Obituaries were originally started for genealogical purposes. That's how families were tracked over generations and family trees were built. We prefer to have them in case anyone starts looking back into family history. Obituaries are an easy way to connect all of that.

Ravuno1 karma


SmartBacon3 karma

Thank you! I'm very sorry for your loss. I've lost all my grandparents. Best wishes. hugs

Awildupvoteappears1 karma


SmartBacon2 karma

You're going more into newspaper style rather than obituaries. Assassinations are murders of well-known people (usually politicians or activists) killed in a surprise attack for some sort of reason, usually politically charged. A mayor gets assassinated, but some random John Doe gets murdered.

rtrautma1 karma


SmartBacon2 karma

Why what?

The_Alaskan1 karma

I have a similar job, but obituaries aren't the only thing I do. We've had competing obituaries come in before -- where the family is so divided that they can't agree on an obituary for a family member. Has that ever happened to you, and what were the circumstances?

SmartBacon1 karma

All the time! Usually one side of the family wants it written a certain way, or they intentionally left out surviving family members that they didn't like. Our rule - which is the fairest thing we can come up with - is that the party who submits it first has the free option and then the second party has to pay a second day publication fee. Usually the second one is submitted a few days after the first one.

Edit: a word

AGoodMan3241 karma

Are you guys allowed to publish home addresses? We are not for liability issues. Also, do you guys have a special program that you work on that transfers the obits to the press? We have a program called Mactive.

SmartBacon3 karma

We will publish home addresses in certain circumstances, but we don't like it and we'll do our best to convince the family not to include it, probably for the same liability issues you guys want to avoid. Sometimes we just outright delete it. We receive obits via email, and then we put it into our CMS and start editing.

JudyAspieMom1 karma

Have you written/seen one like this?

He was my aunt's "boyfriend." Yes, we share it often. I almost peed myself when I read it.

SmartBacon1 karma

I love when people include their pets (I assume that's the part you find funny) in their obit. That's a really funny way to list the pets - most people just say "and their furry children, Fido and Fluffy" or something like that. Our obituary style is a little different than that one.

JudyAspieMom2 karma

It's actually the loved by two women part - and the pets. My aunt was "the other woman." It was creepy that they both went in on the obit. They also split the ashes.

SmartBacon2 karma

Ahhhh, I guess I read that as first wife and then girlfriend or wife after the first one died or they got divorced or something. That is really funny and a bit creepy, but hey, that happens! We haven't gotten anything like that but we'd run it for sure. No reason not to if that's what they want. I do think it's weird/funny that they split the ashes. Ashes still creep me out a little.

WafflesandWorldviews1 karma

Is it true that you don't print the address and funeral time in the same Obit anymore? I heard y'all stopped doing that because thieves would strike, knowing that everyone everyone would be out of the house at that time. Any truth to this?

SmartBacon2 karma

At my paper, we generally don't like to print the home address of the deceased for that reason. We'll say if they lived in a nursing home or assisted living center. We also don't like to put "Memorial contributions may go to this specific residential address" for the same reason. Anytime a family member wants to print an address, we pretty much tell them all of the terrible things that could happen and convince them to let us take it out.

Evil_Bonsai1 karma

Serendipity: best obit ever?

SmartBacon1 karma

I haven't seen it actually!

Evil_Bonsai2 karma

Johnathan Trager, prominent television producer for ESPN, died last night from complications of losing his soul mate and his fiancee. He was 35 years old. Soft-spoken and obsessive, Trager never looked the part of a hopeless romantic. But, in the final days of his life, he revealed an unknown side of his psyche. This hidden quasi-Jungian persona surfaced during the Agatha Christie-like pursuit of his long reputed soul mate, a woman whom he only spent a few precious hours with. Sadly, the protracted search ended late Saturday night in complete and utter failure. Yet even in certain defeat, the courageous Trager secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh. But rather, its a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan. Asked about the loss of his dear friend, Dean Kansky, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and executive editor of the New York Times, described Johnathan as a changed man in the last days of his life. "Things were clearer for him," Kansky noted. Ultimately Johnathan concluded that if we are to live life in harmony with the universe, we must all possess a powerful faith in what the ancients used to call "fatum", what we currently refer to as destiny.

SmartBacon1 karma

That's beautiful. I love it!

anitabonghit7051 karma

what do you want you obit to say?

SmartBacon2 karma

I want it to be straightforward (say I died rather than I went to meet my maker or something like that). I want it to include any of my accomplishments and career info and my family info. I don't want anything fluffy though - no "she loved life and never knew a stranger." I'll probably write it out as I get older.

Seth49891 karma

Have you ever seen the Curb your Enthusiasm episode entitled "Beloved Aunt." If not, as an obituary writer, I can't imagine you not loving it.

SmartBacon1 karma

I don't watch that show, but someone here linked it to that scene. Hilarious!

SublethalDose1 karma

Are there other newspapers that you think have particularly good or bad obituaries? Is there any particular newspaper whose obituary section you look to for ideas when you're stuck?

SmartBacon1 karma

I think the bigger papers that write obits in incomplete sentences and don't include much information - especially their survivors and predeceased family members - all suck. I think people deserve a little bit more than that. I also think that most large papers charge too much for obits. I understand why, but they forget the point of obituaries when they charge so much and forget about at least including immediate family information (parents, siblings and children).

firdragon1 karma

Do you have any good stories about mistakes made in obituaries?

AGoodMan3242 karma

One time we accidentally but a deceased woman's picture in the obit of a deceased man. The family was not pleased.

SmartBacon1 karma

Oh god, that'd be an awful mess to deal with.

SmartBacon1 karma

My ex-co-worker once put her own birth date down for the birth date of a dead person, and the family thought it was funny. Most of our mistakes aren't funny mistakes, unfortunately.

PixelOrange1 karma

Do you ever wish you didn't have a job? I mean, I know everyone dies. I'm not even a person that normally wishes less people would die (I see overpopulation as a very serious problem), but a job like yours must be tough sometimes.

So, do you wish that a job like yours wasn't needed?

SmartBacon2 karma

I mean..... I don't want people to die, but at the same time I understand that death happens. I would like it if overpopulation wasn't a problem and we just all were immortal beings... but it doesn't bother me that I work with death, and I'm glad that my job exists. When people ask me questions like this, I think of like a robot/computer taking over my job, and that makes me sad for two reasons: 1) the families of the deceased wouldn't have someone to talk to about their loved one, which really does comfort them and 2) journalism is already hard enough to get into, getting rid of more newspaper jobs is more depressing to me than death.

SublethalDose1 karma

Has anyone been angry about an obituary you wrote? Why were they angry? What happened?

SmartBacon2 karma

I get angry phone calls from readers who usually aren't related to the person who's obit they're calling about. They complain that we don't include the address of the church, or we don't clarify maternal grandparents vs. paternal grandparents, or things like that. I just tell them, "if you know the family, you can call the funeral home for a rerun. If not, then you can just make sure that your obituary has all of that information."

theinternetaddict1 karma

Have you ever got a fake obituary?

SmartBacon2 karma

Nope. We tell everyone who isn't a funeral home that we need to talk to someone official who handled the body (funeral home, cremation service, medical school) before we can run the obit, so that prevents us from receiving fake obits.

peak_season1 karma

i research, google street view and contact the families of the deceased (i get the names from the obits) to see if they have a quality used car to sell (they usually do as someone just died) and always get a good deal. have you heard of anyone else doing this as their business?

SmartBacon2 karma

Nope, nobody around me does that as far as I know. I personally would be a little creeped out by that, but if it's working for you then keep it up.

georgeresch1 karma

Do you realize how important your work is?

SmartBacon1 karma

Yes, definitely. We tend to be humble and make it all about the family, but I think that's what makes the families and funeral homes we work with so thankful. I just try to treat people right, because it's the least I can do. Going through the death of a loved one is hard enough. If I can ease a small burden, I'm glad.

addcream1 karma

my husband's mother died about a year ago and her ESTRANGED ex-husband quickly wrote and submitted an obituary without anyone's permission or input. is this really allowed? it seems wrong. it was very painful for her children.

SmartBacon1 karma

Unfortunately, there's nothing that the newspaper can do to deny the estranged ex-husband from submitting the obit first (or at all). It's really best that we don't get involved with family situations. Situations like that do happen, and it's terribly, terribly sad. That's why we at least offer to run a second obituary at my newspaper. Granted it starts at $25 for the second obituary and goes up from there, but we do try to give families that option.

LegendaryVII1 karma

This has to be the best AMA I've ever read! You answered every question AND follow-ups.

Way to go!

SmartBacon1 karma

Thank you! :) I was shocked I got so many questions, I'm happy to answer them!

LegendaryVII1 karma

How long are these obituaries usually?

SmartBacon1 karma

At our paper, anywhere from 3 column inches to 20 column inches. Most are between 6 and 10.

LegendaryVII1 karma

How many words would that be? I can't really picture column inches :/

SmartBacon2 karma

Eh.... best do it by characters, because words can be varying length. Six column inches in my newspaper is about 1,100 characters - spaces, letters, punctuation marks.

mrstylishnerd0 karma

I've had to write a few of those before. It's really fun making up part of their life.

SmartBacon4 karma

Wait, you make up part of the lives? Like things that weren't true? That's pretty shitty.

Aristotle3-5 karma

What exactly is the point of your job again ಠ_ಠ

SmartBacon3 karma

Well, obits are just part of my job, but basically I write about dead people. And edit what other people have written about dead people.

TheVeryGoodPal-7 karma

Do u ever fantasize about the deceased people you're writing about? Like sexually? I've always wondered this. Sumtimes I fantasize about that and I don't even have to write the articles haha

SmartBacon4 karma

No, not at all.

jaepoe2 karma

I think I just added a new item to my short list of requirements for potential obituary writers.

SmartBacon1 karma

I hope not being into necrophilia is one of them.