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Nation & World

Words of wisdom, in passing: Woman's self-penned obit offers sage advice

Debra Berger wasn’t the kind of person to let others speak for her. Not even in the afterlife.

The Moorhead, Minnesota, woman wrote her own obituary after learning there was nothing more that could be done to cure the end-stage liver and kidney disease she had been battling for 4 years.

“It’s the absolute perfect representation of her,” said daughter Britney Berger, 28. “She was never the kind of person who wanted insincere friendships.”

Berger died at age 55. Her obituary appeared in the Fargo Forum and was packed with advice that’s resonated with thousands across social media:

“My name is Debi. I decided to write my own obituary because they are usually written in a couple of different ways that I just don’t care for,” the obituary read. “Either, family or friends gather together, and list every minor accomplishment from cradle to grave in a timeline format, or they try and create one poetic last stanza about someone’s life that is so glowing one would think the deceased had been the living embodiment of a deity.

“If you think of me, and would like to do something in honor of my memory do this:

• Write a letter to someone and tell them how they have had a positive effect on your life.

• If you smoke – quit.

• If you drink and drive – stop.

• Turn off the electronics and take your child or children out for ice cream and talk to them about their hopes and dreams.

• Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it.

• Stop at all lemonade-stands run by kids and brag about their product.

• Make someone smile today if it is in your power to do so.”

Before she died, Berger expressed to her daughters that one of her final wishes was to see Christmas lights one more time.

“Christmas has always been her favorite holiday,” Britney said. “She loved going out to see the lights.”

Using her Facebook page as a plea, Britney called on her friends and neighbors on Oct. 20 to hang their Christmas lights early.

Word spread and soon, hundreds of homes in the Fargo-Moorhead area were covered in lights. Many residents who didn’t get around to hanging lights swapped their white porch lights for red and green ones to celebrate Debi.

The family had planned to take a tour of all the lights in a limo on Saturday evening, Nov. 3. West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern declared the day as “Debi Berger Day.” And two area Christmas light companies teamed up to cover the Berger home in purple lights, Debi’s favorite color.

But Debi died early Saturday morning, hours before the holiday celebration was to begin.

“She didn’t get to see the big surprise, but she knew it was happening,” Britney said. “We turned on the lights at the house and they’ve been on since.”


©2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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