You are writing your own obituary each day

Published 12:20 am Saturday, March 2, 2013

In 1897, Mark Twain sent the following note to the London correspondent of The New York Journal, “The report of my death is greatly exaggerated.”

I’ve heard it said, “If you get up in the morning and you don’t read your obituary in the newspaper, it’s a good day.”  Of course, it is said in jest, but think about it. Each new day is a gift from God.  “This is the day the Lord has made,” the Psalmist wrote (118:24).

One morning in 1888, a Swedish chemist named Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite who amassed a fortune from the manufacture of weapons, awoke to read his obituary in the newspaper.

Alfred’s brother had died and a French reporter mistakenly wrote the obituary about the wrong bro-ther. Nobel was not only disturbed by the error, he was shocked to read how his life would be remembered.

“The dynamite king,” as his obituary stated, was also described “as a great industrialist who made an immense wealth from explosives.” As far as the public was concerned, this was the entire purpose of his life.

His true intentions had always been to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas, yet he would only be remembered as a merchant of death. As he read his obituary, Nobel determined the world would know the true meaning and purpose of his life.

Nobel decided his last will and testament regarding his wealth would show the world his intentions. He set up a fund of about $9 million, specifying how the interest from the money would be used.

Annual prizes were to be awarded to people whose work had to have benefited humanity. He died in 1896 and the first Nobel prizes were awarded in 1901. A medal and a cash award are given in five categories – physics and chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and economics.

Every morning we should be thankful to be alive. We have another day of life and breath to make the world a better place in which to live.

Helen Keller once said, “I will not just live my life.  I will not just spend my life. I will invest my life.”  Or, in the words of theologian Matthew Henry, “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day.”  A minister friend once said, “We live in ever-dying bodies with a never-dying soul.”

There’s a song, written by Don Moen, that’s been on my mind this week because my dad is critically ill. “When it’s all been said and done, there is just one thing that matters.  Did I do my best to live for truth? Did I live my life for you?

“When it’s all been said and done, all my treasures will mean nothing. Only what I have done for love’s rewards will stand the test of time…I will always sing your praise here on earth and in heaven after for you’ve joined me at my true home. When it’s all been said and done, you’re my life when life is gone.”


Editor’s note: White’s father died on Thurs., Feb. 28, 2013, after this column was written.


Jan White is an award-winning religion columnist.  Her email address is