When people lose a loved one, sometimes it’s hard to write an obituary. Sitting down and summarizing the life of someone so dear can be almost impossible. A death doula like me can help you write an obituary that honors your loved one, or yourself after a death occurs.
My Background as a Writer
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Even in high school, I won awards for book reports and while other teenage girls babysat, I wrote classmates’ term papers for extra cash.
Later, I wrote an award-winning humor column about parenting and politics for Creative Loafing, an alternative newspaper in Tampa. I wrote another about the joys of getting older for The Tampa Tribune, a more mainstream paper. Both columns were syndicated in newspapers and magazines in Florida and throughout the country.
Writing was also a part of my 30-year career as a political organizer and 10-year career as an educator at both the high school and college levels.
I continue to write death literacy and death-positive columns for my own blog and obituaries and eulogies for my clients. My doula work also includes writing life stories, legacy letters, and ethical wills. This is a rewarding way to serve people at the end of life.
Here is a sample of an obituary (with all names and identifying characteristics changed) for those who might just need a prompt or two to get started.
Mark Bernier, beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and friend, passed away on August 30, 2021, in Miami, Florida at 98 years of age.
An Honored Veteran
Mark was born January 17, 1923, in New Orleans to Douglas and Lilian Bernier. Descendants of immigrants who had settled in America after escaping the uprisings in Haiti, Douglas and Lilian built a proud and hard-working family.
Mark was the oldest of five children and a devoted brother to Roger, Naomi, Curtis, and Sandra.
At the age of 18, he pleaded with his parents for permission to join the Navy. Despite a bone condition, he believed serving his country during World War II was his sacred responsibility. He received permission from his parents and told the recruiter, “Let me show you how I can carry this gun with one good arm.”
They placed Mark on the front lines in France, where he served with distinction.
After the war, Mark finished high school. He attended Tulane University, like so many young soldiers, thanks to the GI Bill.
After graduation, he continued to serve his country as an urban planner and community organizer in low-income communities across the country. His long and successful career began in New Orleans, Louisiana. It continued later in Chicago, New York City, and Miami, Florida.
While on vacation in New Jersey one summer, he met Susannah Pierson. They fell madly in love. They married in 1958 and had a cherished son, Peter, whom he showered with love and affection.
“I Wish He Was My Dad.”
Peter knew his dad was special. Funny, kind, and loving, he even impressed Peter’s childhood friends who would often whisper that they wished he was their father.
Mark enriched the lives of everyone he met.
Peter remembers a happy childhood where his father was a constant presence. Memories include making meals together, Monty Python movies, hikes through national forests, and the lovely, cheerful songs Mark sang that woke him each morning.
In 1983, Mark’s beloved Susannah became ill. After more than 30 years of hard work, Mark was honored for faithful and devoted national service and retired at the age of 60 to spend time with his wife.
Mark and Susannah traveled and enjoyed their time together. They visited every state in the Union and over 15 foreign countries. Mark also lived much of his life during these many years helping Susannah with doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy sessions. Most importantly, she was able to live independently surrounded by family and friends.
Mark did this all with a smile.
All without complaint.
After Susannah died in 2008, Mark moved to Miami to be closer to his son. He also enjoyed local theatre and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
A longtime and active member of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in South Miami, Mark also belonged to Democrats of Florida, Sierra Club, and his local homeowner’s association.
A Gift to Share
Throughout his life, Mark was a naturally talented piano player. He never took a single lesson. It was as if he could close his eyes and instinctively know how to play any song once he heard it on the radio.
As a young man, he worked for a time as a piano player in New Orleans jazz clubs. Supplementing his income as a part-time piano teacher most of his life and helping others to connect through music was his special joy. He played at festivals in Miami and passed down this love and talent to his son, putting Peter on his lap to learn piano keys long before he could talk.
He shared this gift with loved ones everywhere he went.
A Heart of Gold
Mark uplifted friends, family, and strangers with humor, optimism, and loving kindness. Through his actions, he conveyed deep gratitude for life and modeled the value of serving others first.
His greatest legacy is his compassion. Mark understood that each person was fighting a unique battle and consistently strove to find good in everyone.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Susannah Pierson Bernier, both his parents and all five siblings.
Mark is survived by his son Peter Michel Bernier, daughter-in-law Louisa Carter Bernier, granddaughters Alicia and Anna Bernier, and countless nieces, nephews, and friends.
The family wishes to thank Diego Funeral Home for their sensitivity and caring service. The family is also grateful to Mark’s home healthcare aids at Beacon Health Services. They shined with loyalty, dedication, and care.
“Mark was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather and the most wonderful friend you could ever have.”
Testimonials of countless loved ones have been pouring in since Mark passed away. Those who remember him fondly have provided the family with enduring comfort during this sad time.
Donations can be made to Habitat for Humanity in Mark’s loving memory.
How to Write an Obituary
Each obituary should focus on how the person lived, rather than died. Seek out stories from loved ones to share. Show don’t tell and let your love shine through.
If you’d like a free quote for a professionally written obituary, contact me at Anitya Doula Services today.