Ally McLaws – During a pandemic, dealing with cancer: Why should we just write our own obituaries?


Most of us look back and focus on the past at this time of year.

And maybe it’s because this look back doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence, fame, or immense achievements that we turn instead quickly to look ahead. That’s what we do each year, it seems. The fact is, most of us do fairly ordinary things in our lives that are remarkably close to what everyone does.

Yeah, several significant exceptions remain. Those people who stand out from the audience. This are the sort of individuals in the record and appreciation columns that deserve a prominent obituary.

They may be individuals who, in the fields of science or literature or music, have achieved considerable success. Perhaps a business captain or a major explorer. A political heavyweight or an athlete at the top.

All of them come to mind.

An editorial obituary does not qualify for the average person who left school, found a career, became a good soccer player or golfer, raised and cared for a family, and was considered a good all-around person by his or her peers.

A few words spoken from the heart as a eulogy at a party attended by a few hundred of the people we were closest to in life is the best that most of us would hope for.

That is one perception of a well lived average life. But they’re not mine. Much has been said about being celebrated for effectively encouraging others to achieve academic, technical, and personal development and outcomes through mentoring programs.

They, indeed, abound with examples of a truly satisfying legacy being built.

The individuals who are targeted as mentors, however, are typically those who are regarded as “high achievers,” not the average man or woman. But take a step back to think about the daily activities that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, or even those who deal with struggling young adults, do with so many soccer or club coaches.

And then think about what parents and aunts and uncles achieve by knowing the boys in our lives, helping and guiding them.

My new grandson was born on Christmas Day. At 3:39pm, Noah Alastair McLaws, weighing 8lbs 4oz with a full head of dark hair, came into the world and raised an entire family’s spirits.

I can see a lot of myself in my children and a lot of my grandchildren in my children. For more than a decade, I have been lucky also to affect step-grandchildren. These are the legacies we will all leave behind and why – even if it does not grace the pages of a newspaper – anyone can deserve a glowing editorial obituary.

By living it, we will write our own.

Ally McLaws is managing director of a specialist in business communications and reputation management, McLaws Consultancy. Display all the columns


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