By Thomas M. Loarie

BOOK REVIEW: Don’t Let Death Steal Your Story

May 29, 2023
Column: CEO Learnings

WSJ Obituary columnist James R. Hagerty’s book, Yours Truly: An Obituary Writer’s Guide to Telling Your Story, is a thought-provoking and engaging work that explores the importance of crafting our own obituary and telling our own story.

Hagerty’s inspiration for writing this book comes from his own experience with his father’s passing. Like many people, Hagarty wished that his dad had left more clues about his life, such as why he chose journalism. This realization led Hagerty to believe that everyone should write their obituary, telling their own story and leaving behind a legacy that accurately reflects who they were and what they accomplished.

What can obituaries tell us about a person’s life?

As the Wall Street Journal‘s obituary writer, Hagerty has found that writing obituaries has given him a sense of what he wants to say about his own life and why it’s important to say it now.

Writing our own obituary can also serve as a check-up on how we are living, allowing us to reflect on our accomplishments and goals, the path we have been on, and whether we need to make any changes.

In this book, the author emphasizes the importance of writing our own obituary by highlighting what obituaries can tell us about a person’s life.

He notes that obituaries often reveal surprising and inspiring stories, including tales of perseverance, bravery and dedication.

Engaging from beginning to end

Throughout the book, Hagerty uses obituaries and stories of others to engage readers and drive home his points. His use of stories to emphasize key points is effective and engaging.

He shares anecdotes about Mort Crim, Nora Ephron, Pete Correll, and many others to illustrate the importance of crafting our own story and ensuring that our legacy accurately reflects who we are.

He stresses that our story should not be left to others to write, as they may not accurately reflect who we are or what we have accomplished. Instead, we should take charge and tell our own story, ensuring that the legacy we leave behind is the one we want.

Samples of excellent questions to help us write our own story

The author provides a sampling of questions to answer when crafting our own obituary, including what accomplishments we are most proud of, what we would like people to remember about us, and for what we hope to be remembered.

This book is worth buying just to get and understand the value of these questions.

What to include, what to leave out

Hagerty also offers guidance on what to include and what not to include in our obituary, stressing the importance of including telling tidbits and humor that capture our personality and spirit. And he addresses the common misconception that we have nothing to tell, noting that everyone has a story worth telling.

In conclusion, “Yours Truly” is an insightful and engaging work that encourages readers to take charge of their own story and craft their own legacy. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to ensure that the report card they want exists after they die and for anyone who wants to leave behind a legacy that accurately reflects who they were and what they accomplished.

Listen: Fascinating, Live Interview with James Hagerty on The Mentors Radio

BOOK REVIEW:  Don’t Let Death Steal Your Story  James Hagerty has been a guest mentor on my radio show, THE MENTORS RADIO. This show was previously broadcast worldwide on the Salem Radio Network and iHeartRadio. If you want to listen, go to


View Articles Thomas M. Loarie is a popular host of The Mentors Radio Show, the founder and CEO of BryoLogyx Inc. (, and a seasoned corporate... MORE »

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