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Why it’s worth reading actor James Rebhorn’s moving obituary he wrote for himself

In this Nov. 4, 2009 file photo, actor James Rebhorn attends the premiere of The Box in New York.

Peter Kramer/AP

The late character actor James Rebhorn built his career on carefully chosen film and TV roles. He took the same selective approach when writing his own obituary.

Over a career spanning three decades, Rebhorn, who died at 65 last Friday from melanoma, was a tall, hawk-like actor whose expansive resume ranged from soap operas (The Doctors, Search for Tomorrow) to sitcoms (Kate & Allie, Seinfeld) to Hollywood blockbusters (Independence Day, Meet the Parents) to most recently Homeland.

To the surprise of many, Rebhorn also wrote his own obituary, which was published Monday on the website for the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jersey City, N.J., where his funeral services will take place earlier this week.

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Titled simply "His Life, According to Jim," the tightly written obituary is penned in the third-person style and is believed to have been written shortly before the actor's death (he signs off with his name and the date of March, 2014).

You can read the obituary in its entirety here.

As it should, the obit begins with Rebhorn recapping his entry into this world, which took place on Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia.

Not surprisingly, the actor provides a glowing portrait of his mother, Ardell, who "loved him very much and supported his dreams" and taught him "the value of good manners and courtesy."

Similarly, Rebhorn has gentle memories of his father, James, who taught him "there is no excuse for poor craftsmanship" and his sister, Janice Galbraith, "his friend, his confidant and, more often than either of them would like to admit, his bridge over troubled waters."

Rebhorn's most endearing thoughts go toward his wife, Rebecca, and their two daughters, Emma and Hannah. In his words: "They anchored his life and gave him the freedom to live it. Without them, always at the center of his being, his life would have been little more than a vapor."

Rebhorn also takes the time to suggest his daughters keep their mourning to a minimum.

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"They deal with grief differently, and they should each manage as they see fit," writes Rebhorn. "He hopes, however, that they will grieve his passing only as long as necessary. They have much good work to do, and they should get busy doing it."

In brisk but thoughtful fashion, Rebhorn rings off a list of people key in his life – including aunts, cousins and friends – and acknowledges his university fraternity and lifelong Lutheran faith.

But it's the final graph that will put a lump in your throat, as Rebhorn says, "Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor."

And Rebhorn's final line: "He was a lucky man in every way."

Rest in peace, James Rebhorn. You were one of a kind.

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