Let's TAP About It

How My Journalism Skills Helped When My Mother Passed Away

Margaret Lee (1928-2016)

I experienced more than grief when my mother Margaret Lee passed away on Oct. 22.

Among the many thoughts that have crossed my mind since her passing is how the experience underscored the important elements of what I did for many years as a journalist – the same elements I now try to instill in the students I teach at St, Bonaventure University.

Omit Needless Words

Sign Up for E-News

For starters, the experience forced me to write concisely. At funeral Masses in my mother’s diocese, the only opportunity for a family member to offer a eulogy comes at the start of the ceremony and is limited to one minute.

With just 60 seconds to describe my mother’s 88 years of life, my journalistic instincts kicked in. I made every word count. I eliminated weak and needless words and used powerful, descriptive language to paint a picture and tell a story.

Write with Passion

My journalistic instincts also took over when I received word that my mother had died. Our family members had been taking turns at the hospital. My wife Anne was there when my mother passed early in the morning. My father and I were at home resting.

When Anne called, my father was still asleep, and I saw no need to wake him. As I sat alone in the kitchen with nothing to do except to wait for my father to wake, I realized the most constructive thing I could do with my time was to compose my mother’s obituary.

Pay Attention to Accuracy and Detail

When the funeral director showed us his draft of my mother’s obituary (which later was combined with my words), my eyes immediately focused on a misspelling in one of my daughters’ names, invoking thoughts of how, in some journalism programs, a misspelled proper name can result in an automatic F grade.

After the funeral director corrected the error, I then instructed him in how to put the obituary into proper AP style and place commas and other punctuation marks in the correct spots in the text. After all, a carefully edited story sends a message of professionalism.

Keep Up with Technology

When I started my career, I wrote news stories on a manual typewriter. When my mother died, I composed her obituary on an iPhone.

The tools journalists use have changed radically over the years, but what we do – how and why we tell a story – remains the same.

Never Stop Being Curious

At our family gathering after the funeral, my daughters commended me on my one-minute eulogy – not just for what I said, but also for how I managed to maintain my composure while speaking.

When I told them my secret, they laughed. “I just Googled it,” I said. “I searched for ‘How to control your emotions while delivering a eulogy’ and the tips were all there.”

The story made for a lighter moment on a difficult day and also an ideal “-30-“ for this column.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

Greater Olean

Upcoming Events

Mon, October 23, 2:30 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

No Sew Pumpkins

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, October 23, 6:30 PM

Olean Public Library, Olean

A Gathering of Ghosts with Ron Cain

Arts & Entertainment

Tue, October 24, 12:00 PM

1st floor conference room, Olean

Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce Lunch & ...

Business & Finance

That Time I Started My Journalism Career on Columbus Day

For many people, Columbus Day is a time for parades and a celebration of Italian heritage. Others contend that it is wrong to honor Christopher Columbus as a hero.

For me, Columbus Day is significant for another reason. It was on Columbus Day in 1975 that I spent my first day in a newsroom as a working journalist as a reporter for a suburban weekly named The Montclair Times.

It also was a ...

Playoff Picture Gets Clearer for Local Teams as Season Concludes

On The Gridiron:

Last week Cuba-Rushford kept York-Pavilion off the board with a 28-0 victory on the road. The win was huge for the Rebels as it marked two in a row for the team as they charge into the playoffs. Cuba-Rushford ended the year with a 5-2 record. The Rebels finished as the number two team in the league as they await an opponent for their playoff matchup on Friday. The Rebels will ...

NYS Office for the Aging Reminds Older New Yorkers Medicare Open Enrollment Begins Oct. 15

October 12, 2017

ALBANY, NY — New York State Office for the Aging acting director Greg Olsen reminds older New Yorkers that the Medicare open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Medicare health and prescription drug plans can make changes each year to costs, coverage, and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks. The open enrollment period is when all people ...

TAPinto Touts Traffic and Revenue Growth While Celebrating Ninth Birthday at Franchisee Meeting

TAPinto.net celebrated its ninth birthday on Monday at its franchisee meeting held at the Grand Summit Hotel, in Summit, NJ. 

What began in 2008 as an all-online local newspaper in New Providence founded by Michael Shapiro and his wife, Lauryn, is now the dominant player in local news, with more than 65 TAPinto sites providing original local reporting every day in more than ...

Senator Young Posthumously Honors World War II Veteran Donald L. Buchanan

OLEAN, NY – World War II veteran Private First Class Donald L. Buchanan, U.S. Army, was posthumously honored for his distinguished service to our nation on Saturday, September 23. 

During a ceremony at War Veterans Park in Olean, New York, Senator Catharine Young, who represents teh Greater Olean area inthe state legislature,  presented Private First Class ...