Here is a terrific take from the writer Ellen Goodman on making sure not to miss out on end-life-conversations with your parents. She has started an organization called The Conversation Project to assist boomers in having The Talk (not the one about the birds and bees). It's worth a look at both her column and her site.
A friend forwarded to me Margalit Fox's NYT obit for Guy Carawan, the folksinger who popularized "We Shall Overcome." It strikes me that this is an anthem that resonates in most minds as deeply American, and yet, as Ms. Fox writes, the referents for it significantly predate the civil rights movement...the melody can be traced at least as far back as Beethoven, and the populations it has affected wave well past our Sea to Shining Seas...Tiananmen Square, The Berlin Wall, possibly (my guess) some of the newer "democracy movements."
There are so many people (important and less-so) we miss while they're living, but making their acquaintance after death continues their story. That, as I see it, the job of a good obit writer.