Why Did James Rehborn’s Obituary Go Viral?
Published: December 27, 2015
James Rehborn passed away earlier this year. It is not current news so you may have missed it. But his obituary touched many people, and I thought it was worth a comment.
He was a long time, respected character actor and had some recognizable roles that you might have seen such as in Scent of a Woman and the TV show Homeland. He died after a long battle with skin cancer.
But, it wasn’t his passing that has caused such conversation. It was his self-penned obituary that people are finding touching and emotional. It has been shared 10’s of thousands of times.
What is Special About This Obituary?
Why has it been shared so much? What made it different than other obituaries? Part of it is surely because he is a public figure. Most of us die relatively unknown outside our circle of family and friends. And there is likely some novelty because self-written obituaries are not that common, yet.
One thing that his obituary does is make death a bit more approachable, if that’s the right word. The fact that every life will come to an end, is just not something that most people are comfortable with. This journey ends at the same place for all of us regardless of who you are or where you came from.
There are aspects of this obituary that resonate with people beyond the celebrity of the writer. It is written in a casual, matter-of-fact, positive tone with no sense of remorse or regret. Mr. Rehborn battled melanoma for years. This may have given him the opportunity to reflect and come to terms with his mortality.
The other, and more compelling, aspect is that very little of the obituary was about him. He speaks of his parents and how they loved and taught him. The close bond he had with his sister. The unwavering love and support of his wife. And how his daughters anchored him and gave his life meaning.
A Message to His Children
One of the most compelling messages in the obituary was to his children.
He is practical about loss and acknowledges that his daughters will grieve, and that’s OK. Even though we all know it is coming, that each of us will have our time, there is no way to simply put aside the sadness. It is part of the healing process.
James Rehborn gives them gentle guidance to get on with life and do good things. Children need that from their parents, regardless of their age. The words and guidance of a parent can be a source of comfort, guidance and inspiration - even when we think they are not listening,
Ultimately, I believe people responded to his obituary so strongly because he made it about others. When you are gone, your work is done here. He knew that those left behind would have the bigger challenge and he did what he could to give them a hug and a pat on the back.
Rest in peace, James Rehborn.
photo via Huffington Post