The older I get the more time I spend reading obituaries. I have become somewhat of an expert. I believe most of them are written by the deceased themselves, or at least someone who loves them. A lot. We Americans have gotten so politically correct even our obits read like Emily Post. Always so polite. You almost never read the real reason for someone's demise. We can't even use the word died. It's passed on, or left this earthly world, or entered heaven (are you sure??), or joined his beloved parents--yuck. When I read an obit I want to know the facts, not just of a life but the death too. Let's face it, it's the very last activity we mortals engage in. It's almost as if we are ashamed of dying. I read one the other day that said, "Sally Young passed on to join the heavenly angels above and dance among the stars." What happened to resting in peace? I think most of us have earned it.
If it's been a long struggle with cancer or a car accident we're likely to see that in print. Dying suddenly usually means a heart attack or suicide. Sometimes you can figure out the cod (cause of death) from where the family wants donations sent. The American Cancer Society, Heart Association or various other common and not so common research organizations. You never see an obit that says something like--Jimmy O'Sullivan died from cirrhosis of the liver after years of drinking Irish Whiskey. Please send donations to your local AA. Or, Antonio Bacca died from advanced venereal disease after years of whoring around. Please send donations to Planned Parenthood. I'm surprised we don't see such things in the paper. It's usually the wives, after all, who write the darn things, right?
How come the obits always describe the deceased in glowing terms? Beloved by his relatives, will be missed by his extended family of friends, etc. Don't the bastards of this world die too? And don't their estranged family get to write the obituaries? You know--"John Dork died a peaceful death after years of inflicting serious beatings on his wife Sally. When last seen, she was dancing on his grave."
I read one the other day for Sarah Millsap, tap-dancing expert. I realize it's nice to be remembered for an accomplishment--but shouldn't it be something that is important for society?
There are three times in our life that are guaranteed to be noted in the newspaper. Our birth, marriage, and death. Occasions that should be handled with dignity. Nicknames that seem cute in life can sound downright degrading in an obit. Just the other day I read that John "Nookie" Desmond passed to the great beyond. "Nookie"? Need I say more. It just starts us fantasizing about how the heck he got it. Not a good mental picture for strangers to carry around. Isn't how we're remembered just as important as being remembered?
When my mother died. the undertaker had a fill-in-the-blank form for the newspaper. He just went down the list asking us questions, you know--where was she born, what was her education? The obit was sterile and cold. I wish I could go back and write it again, better yet I wish she had written it. She had a wonderful sense of humor. I'm sure she would have loved to have her last word cause a laugh. She probably would have put in a change of address and maybe the phone number of a psychic.
I guess it's important to some people where their remains will repose. Not me. Being cremated and poured off the back of the ferry would do me fine. My mother used to say, "Don't put me in a nursing home. Just shoot me and bury me in the back yard." I read an obit today that gave the final resting place as the Odd Fellow's Cemetery. Wouldn't that be the final indignity? I didn't even know there was such a place but I sure wouldn't want to spend eternity there amongst the odd.
Bill Clinton's remains will probably repose for eternity at the 19th hole of the Vineyard Golf Club. That would be more appropriate, don't you think?
Anyway, if you want your obit to be correct and really reflect who you were in life--you'd better start writing.