Death is a common fear. How will we die? What will it feel like? Where will we go? Like trying to understand our existence or our place in the universe, death can hurt to think about. There are so many questions that cannot be answered, frustrating many to the point of refusing to think about it at all.
While most of us can try to turn it off, people who are terminally ill don’t have that luxury. We all know we are going to die, but for many, the idea that we are too young, too healthy, too happy, or too strong to die just yet, or for a very long time, gives us comfort. But people who know their days are numbered typically have a shift in perspective; a new viewpoint on death.
Sonia Todd, a 38-year-old woman diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, was one of those people. She knew death was coming sooner than later, and this led her to look at life a little differently. In a way, she embraced her death as a chance for leaving behind an image of herself on her own terms. Writing her own obituary, Todd wanted to do things her way, but not just for her — for anyone who cared to read her last words as well.
Her touching obituary encouraged people to do simple selfless acts in honour of her memory, and left behind such an impression that it has been shared on the ‘Love What Matters’ Facebook page, receiving 21,000 reactions and thousands of positive comments.
Here are a few inspiring excerpts from Todd’s obituary:
“My name is Sonia Todd, and I died of cancer at the age of 38. I decided to write my own obituary because they are usually written in a couple of different ways that I just don’t care for. Either, family or friends gather together, and list every minor accomplishment from cradle to grave in a timeline format, or they try and create one poetic last stanza about someone’s life that is so glowing one would think the deceased had been the living embodiment of a deity.”
“The truth, or my version of it, is this: I just tried to do the best I could. Sometimes I succeeded, most of the time I failed, but I tried. For all of my crazy comments, jokes and complaints, I really did love people. The only thing that separates me from anyone else is the type of sin each of us participated in. I didn’t always do the right thing or say the right thing and when you come to the end of your life those are the things you really regret, the small simple things that hurt other people.”
“Some folks told me that writing my own obituary was morbid, but I think it is great because I get a chance to say thank you to all the people who helped me along the way. Those who loved me, assisted me, cared for me, laughed with me and taught me things so that I could have a wonderful, happy life. I was blessed beyond measure by knowing all of you. That is what made my life worthwhile.
If you think of me, and would like to do something in honor of my memory do this:
– Volunteer at a school, church or library.
– 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 a kid 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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People’s responses to Todd’s obituary prove just how inspiring it was. One person wrote on Facebook: “Thank you Sonia for sharing your story with us, and for reminding us that we all matter… that we all can make a difference in someone’s life.”
Another said: “You left your mark on this earth with your inspiring words. Other obituaries talk of the past, these words have the promise of a future for those who it will inspire.”
And another used Todd’s words to finally follow through with a much-needed task: “Rest in Peace Sonia, you were a lovely lady. I didn’t know you, but I’d like to honour your memory. I know just who I need to write a letter to. Thank you.”
Todd had been outspoken regarding her disdain for traditional obituaries prior to her death, and her realistic approach to saying goodbye on her terms is a beautiful reminder of the impact being true to oneself can have on the world.
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