Obituaries are important, and respectful ways to alert of people passing. I am not suggesting we remove the notice that people have passed. I am suggesting that we add a stage, pre-death, to the obituary. Something more like a panegyric, a tribute, to a flame that is going out.
We have been innovating on obituary services recently (http://obits.lohud.com/obituaries/lohud/) for example. This serves the grieving. What about the person dying. Do they not deserve a celebration of their life? They do of course, but maybe they say no, or maybe they don't want to make a fuss, or let people see them as they die. The current obituary format is good, but a simple switch from post- to pre-death could make a world of difference. One famous example of potential impact of such change is the story of Alfred B. Nobel. He created the Nobel Prizes when he realized he would be remembered for something he didn't want to be remembered for. While this is extreme, (he wasn't dying, is was a newspaper accidentally writing his obituary when his brother died) he was clearly empowered with this chance to re-frame his life. He reflected on life anew. He reflected on himself.
Every person dying who reads their obituary won't make the new Nobel Prizes. But they will know what they meant to their loved ones, their community. They will skip the awkward "Hey, how are you? I'm dying." conversation, and maybe a long-lost friend will revisit them to reminisce or reconcile old grudges. Maybe not. These are just things that could occur thanks to a small change in an old, traditional system. Simply having a ready-built platform, a ritual stage in a painful process, that lets people both celebrate the life of their loved one, and notify the community, is so much more respectful.