Condensing a life into a few words is challenging in the best of times, but it can be overwhelming in the time between the loss of your father and his memorial. Your local newspaper and funeral home have guides to help you with the necessary structure, however they can't fill in the personal details that honor his life. Only close family members and friends can do that.

Think of six words that describe your father. Finding a few key words, such as "patient," "loving" or "strong" can help you focus on many of the important things you want to communicate.

Write a short opening paragraph sharing your father's death. Carefully consider how much detail you would like to provide. For example, you might simply say "John Smith died peacefully on Sunday." However, this might result in a large number of phone calls asking for more details. If these calls would be more painful than welcome, consider expanding on your statement with something like "John Smith lost his battle to cancer on Sunday, May 18th. He died peacefully, surrounded by his friends and family."

Include a brief biography of your father. This usually consists of, as appropriate, his date of birth, college, career, military service and the place that he lived most of his life. Consider sharing volunteer work, awards or achievements that your father was proud of.

Choose a short story or event that illustrates one of the qualities you identified in Step 1. For example, if you described your father as "brave" you might share an anecdote about his military service in his biography section.

Consider the list of extended family members you want to mention. Most obituaries mention the deceased's spouse and immediate family members, including siblings, parents and children. You may also choose to include grandchildren and in-laws if space permits. The phrase "preceded in death" is often used for those family members that your father is joining, while "mourned by" describes those that are still living.

Conclude with information about the funeral and donation requests. If the service is open to the public, providing the details in the obituary will spare you multiple phone calls. If you wish it to remain private, people will respect a statement such as "a private funeral is scheduled." Similarly, donation requests generally read "in lieu of flowers the family requests a donation be made to..." This gives mourners a way to show their respects and honor your father's memory in a way that he would appreciate.

Edit your father's obituary. Make sure that it follows the guidelines given by the newspaper in which it will publish and that it is within your budget. If you need to cut details, shorten your story or include it in the eulogy instead, or abbreviate the list of people who preceded your father in death.

Share the obituary with family members before publishing it. They can help check for accuracy and including them will reduce ill feelings if you did make a mistake.