Obituaries: Why don’t we tell the truth?

My 96-year old mother has been reading multiple papers daily for decades. She reads everything and never fails to always peruse the obituaries, a habit I had never acquired, until recently.

So, let me say that I find obits strange. First, no one is ever bad once they’re dead. I like truth and I think it’s fair to point out that someone was a horse’s ass in life. I mean, why not? Who are we protecting? The person, after all, is dead. They’re not sitting at the breakfast table scanning the obituaries to see what others think of them. So, wouldn’t telling the truth about Uncle Bob—he was a miserable, cheating alcoholic who beat his wife and terrorized his family—be therapeutic? But we never do that. History tells us that the idea that one shouldn’t denigrate the dead goes back almost 2000 years, but curiously there is no explanation as to why.

I do find it interesting how many ways people say someone died: He moved on, went to heaven on the wings of angels, was called home, left this earthly plane, passed peacefully, though that one always has me asking how they knew the deceased settled easily into death. Maybe he was raging against the dying of the light, after all.  

I realize that family members of the deceased are often tasked with writing obituaries. According to, “Writing an obituary can feel daunting. You may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of writing about a loved one who has died. Or you may worry that you’ll forget important facts or that the obituary won’t fully capture your loved one’s life. This is one reason why many families begin preparing the obituary in advance.” 

I like that idea, and so, apparently, does my mother. She has penned her own obit and I’m sure wants no revisions from the family. (As those who know Mary Anne can attest, she’s not one to be trifled with.) That said, my recent brush with Covid had me considering what my own obit might say. As a former journalist—one from olden times when reporters would never consider picking sides—I offer the truth.


Anne Butler Montgomery

Anne had a fabulously interesting life where things didn’t always go as planned. Sometimes she succeeded. Sometimes she failed, periodically in spectacular fashion. She was driven and stubborn and opinionated. (The latter of which she blamed on her mother.) She tried to do the right thing when facing important decisions, though sometimes the right thing remained elusive. She could be awfully sarcastic and was surprised when she became a teacher to learn that sarcasm was not appropriate where children were concerned. No, she wasn’t always nice, but in later years she worked hard to improve her sweetness factor. She loved music, wild places, rocks, officiating sports, and animals of all kinds. She relished food, wine, good company, books, and movies. Anne wishes that you hoist an adult libation in her honor whenever you choose. And she would appreciate it if her friends and loved ones would sprinkle her ashes wherever they see fit. If that’s in the kitty litter, so be it.

So, let’s start a trend. Let’s tell the truth about ourselves and ask others to do the same. With that in mind, what would you say about you?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.


Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.


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20 thoughts on “Obituaries: Why don’t we tell the truth?

  1. sloanetaylor1 says:

    AWESOME! I agree completely and do NOT speak kindly of a SOB who died. Truth is what matters although I am afraid of what my daughter might write for my obit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sharonledwith says:

    There was a movie with Shirley MacLaine – The Last Word – where she hires an obit writer with a paper to write her obituary. Too funny! It’s a great idea, Ms. Anne, and love your obit! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul Wells says:

      Thought provoking, absolutely. Thank you for this, but writing my own obituary goes against everything I have practiced and preached while alive. “If you don’t remember my contribution to this world, it wasn’t because I didn’t try” might be a tombstone consideration, but I’m also choosing cremation. I have always told my children, “Just let your bat speak for you.” It’s kind of a baseball analogy that was consistent with another suggestion that I shared with them. It goes like this: “It’s more rewarding to make the history and then leave it for others to talk about.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

        I like your last line best, Paul. I think the point is that so many people leave out the not-so-good aspects of their or their loved-ones lives. 😉


  3. Jeffrey Leaf says:

    There’s only one problem with people writing their own obits: Do you think the Uncle Bobs of the world are going to tell people that they were miserable, cheating alcoholics who beat their wives and terrorized their families?

    I’ve already been told that my ashes will help build an artificial reef off Florida. So, I can bite the big one, croak, expire, etc. knowing that I will be serving humanity, at least for the life of my concrete.

    Until then, I will start using you, Anne, as the excuse for the beers I drink. “Anne told me to do it!” I know, you’re not flatlined, visited by the grim reaper, sailed across the River Styx yet, but why wait when you have such a good excuse now?


  4. annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

    Of course some people won’t write the truth, Jeffrey! But once they’re dead, others can rectify that problem. That said, I’m a diver and I like the being part of an artifical reef idea. And feel free to drink your beers, but that’s not an excuse to be a dick. Just sayin’. Enjoy! 😉


  5. Linda Lee Greene says:

    I have been commissioned to write the eulogies of departed family members for several years running. The last one was just too much for me, and I have since withdrawn my services in that tricky business. I like your obit, Anne. The humor makes it palatable to almost any reader, whether or not it evokes agreement. I wouldn’t know, one way or the other.


  6. annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

    I like to think I’ve been pretty honest, Linda. Though my sweetie pie suggested that I add “demanding”. Hummmm?


  7. Karen Tweedley says:

    Love your obit! I am going to write my own and put it with my will to be read at the time my ashes are scattered (by my beloved pets as I specified in my will – after my donated body has been used to teach others!).


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