Hi. I'm Art Buchwald, and I just died.
With that characteristically sardonic quip, humor columnist Art Buchwald revolutionized the obituary format.
He'd sat for a video obit with The New York Times before his death on Jan. 17, with the understanding that it would show on the newspaper's website afterward.
I thought it was brilliant. Who better to have the last word on a life than the person who lived it? How more effectively to convey the nuance of a voice forever silenced than with that voice still animate?
Clearly, this is not for everyone, but for others -- especially those who grasp their own place in history -- it's a priceless legacy, one that I'm asking you to consider.
Last month, in my 33rd year as a newspaper reporter, I took on the obituary beat at The Miami Herald.
Both in The Herald's print edition and on our website MiamiHerald.com, we're changing the way we approach obits. I define them as posthumous profiles summing up not just the facts of a life but the context, not only what a person did -- for better or for worse -- but how his or her deeds affected the lives of others and the culture of South Florida.
You don't have to be as famous as Art Buchwald to fit that bill. Recent Herald obits have included a barber and a bartender, a hotelier and an advertising executive, a disgraced union official and a revered religious leader -- all of whom left a distinctive mark on the community.
Dealing with death is never easy, though it's not always tragic. In the past 13 months, I've lost both of my parents, who were in their 90s. This is the natural order of things, and though I will miss them always -- and cry for them sometimes -- I realize how lucky I am to have had them into my late 50s.
It's not always so, of course. Too many people die too young, too painfully, too violently, too randomly, too needlessly. And while there are no rules to dictate how those left behind should grieve or remember -- what could be more individual than mourning? -- there are new ways to memorialize lost loved ones and friends.
With some recent obituaries, we've had audio and/or video accompanying the website version: a daughter reading her father's words, a short film biography. I believe such enhancements enrich the written word, letting life linger in the senses for a few more moments.
So, a request: If you've got a touch of Art Buchwald in you and are inclined to video what I call a ''pre-bit,'' please let me know.
If someone you know has just died and you can provide video or audio of them -- or about them -- for the obituary, likewise let me know.
Be assured, however, that the absence of electronic material doesn't render someone unworthy of a news obituary. An interesting life stands on its own.
That said, I cannot promise a news obituary to everyone who dies. What I can promise is I'll consider each request with respect.
I can be reached at ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com, or at 305-376-3631.