The Gift of Your Story

I wanted to share the most moving essay I’ve read in a long, long time. It is actor James Rebhorn’s obituary, which he penned himself. Who, you may ask, is James Rebhorn?


James Rebhorn

I’m not sure I knew his name, but I certainly knew his face. A character actor who has played the “bad” guy so many times I don’t think I can count. He died last week at the (too young) age of  65. He left a huge body of work on film, and on stage. He listed no roles, no awards, no public kudos in his obit. Instead, he talked about his family, and what they meant to him. You can read it here.

I am moved by Mr. Rebhorn’s words. Words he chose to tell his life story, the way he wanted to tell it. His wonderful career barely got a mention at the bottom. He let the world, and his family, know what was important to him. His family. He told his story, as he wanted it told.

I have been thinking about this obituary all day. About the comfort it will give his family. About what it says about him as a human being, as an actor, as a son/brother/husband/father, and as a thoughtful man. About the way it made me think about him. About how he used his own obituary to thank the people who gave him joy, rather than celebrate that life itself. A very powerful way to reframe what success looks like.

13 thoughts on “The Gift of Your Story

  1. Seeing this made me instantly think of his role in the Michael Douglas movie, THE GAME, where he essentially played an actor who played a businessman. It’s a movie that uses a facade to demonstrate to the main character what is really important in life. This self-penned obit does the same.

  2. Oh, I so know that face but never knew the man’s name. He must have been in a million movies. What an amazing piece of simple, heartfelt writing. We should all be so lucky–and so aware of having it, too–such a rich and loving life. Thanks for sharing, Julie!

  3. Thank you for sharing! I saw that he had passed away…didn’t know the name before I saw the news item, but I knew his face from many films. The obituary was a self-effacing and graceful recognition of the people he loved…how amazing to see him use his obituary to focus on his family rather than his own accomplishments. Now that’s impressive! Blessings to him and his family. ~ Sheila

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