Living obituary: When opportunity knocks for family history, answer the call

Editor’s note: The following post was taken from our monthly “Houstory Herald” newsletter. The article generated a good deal of conversation, so we felt it was appropriate to re-run it on our blog. Thanks.


By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

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We normally come out with the newsletter once per month, and — as some of you may have noticed — we didn’t have a February issue.

That’s because a lot has changed since I last wrote to you. I’m not sure if you remember the theme of my last piece. It was about the importance of writing a living obituary. In the article, I wrote about compiling information for an obit for my mother-in-law while she was still alive.

What I didn’t tell you is that I did the same thing for my father-in-law, Jim, the very same day. The reason I omitted this fact was because I didn’t quite complete the task. After an hour of life story conversation that often veered gloriously off path, we got to about 1975 (or when he was 25 years old) before we hung it up just before midnight.

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Dan with Jim, being goofy – Christmas 2013

I’ll always kick myself for not pressing on further.

Exactly one week later, on Jan. 11, 2014, Jim unexpectedly passed away. He was just 63.

That hour, spent scribbling and questioning, is something I will cherish for all time.

Seven days after he died — and just 14 after sitting down with him — we had a service for him in a local bowling alley (his choice of venue, which I learned from our conversation). Much of the eulogy I gave — as well as ­­­the obituary I penned — was based on that 60-minute download.

I think you know where I’m going.

Stop. Sit with your loved ones. Talk. Record. Write down. Do it.

Before it’s too late. And don’t go to bed until you have it all.

RIP Jim. You will be remembered.


  1. Sorry to hear about your father-in-law. What a treasured moment you got to have with him. I know you will always hold that dear to your heart.

  2. Thanks Jen. I will miss him a lot, but you’re right. I hope you are doing well!