Debra Berger didn't think much of the typical newspaper obituary.
When left to the bereaved family and friends, obits usually turn into a recitation of glorious accomplishments, Berger observed, or else come with a "poetic final stanza" that leaves the reader convinced the subject was "the living embodiment of a deity."
Not so for Debra Berger, 55, who died this past weekend in Moorhead, Minnesota. Berger, who had liver cancer and knew the end was near, was not leaving her final remembrance to chance. So, she wrote her own obituary, which ran in the Fargo Forum this past weekend. It's great.
"For all of my crazy comments, jokes and complaints," Berger wrote, "I really did love people."
They seemed to love her back: In the final days of her life, Berger's family asked people to put up their Christmas lights early, so she could see them one last time. Many of them did, and the City of West Fargo not only turned on a set of municipal lights, but declared Saturday "Debi Berger day."
In her obituary, Berger thanked the people who "loved me, assisted me, cared for me, laughed with me and taught me things so that I could have a wonderful, happy life."
Berger, in turn, offered parting thoughts of things she hoped to teach others, ending the obituary with a short list of pieces of advice. We've reprinted those below in full.
- Write a letter to someone and tell them how they have had a positive effect on your life.
- If you smoke - quit.
- If you drink and drive - stop.
- Turn off the electronics and take your child or children out for ice cream and talk to them about their hopes and dreams.
- Forgive someone who doesn't deserve it.
- Stop at all lemonade-stands run by kids and brag about their product.
- Make someone smile today if it is in your power to do so.
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