“Obituaries? Really? You honestly think that’s a kicky idea for an uplifting blog post?” It may not be trending on Twitter right this minute, but keep reading. You’ll be reminded yet again that I’m here to help you.
I’ll share the “whys” in a moment. First let me get this one point across before you can get distracted by something far more trivial and unimportant than my blog. Write your own obituary. While you can. Do not let it fall to some ham-fisted Vogon who may describe the most inane, if not most embarrassing, aspects of your time on earth, and do little justice to the fabulous life that you led and—for now—are continuing to lead.
I read obituaries selectively, but on a fairly regular basis. It’s one of the hazards of my volunteer work. I take my dogs, Emma and McGee, to visit residents at a nursing home on alternate Sundays, and it’s not unusual to find the name on the door of one of my “regulars” replaced with one that’s unfamiliar. These residents have shared their lives and their stories while getting their fix of doggie love. “Deep affection” is hardly adequate to express my feelings for them. I’m the anonymous friend, the unknown adopted family member, who doesn’t get the call and doesn’t get to go to the wake or memorial service. After I learn of the passing of one of Emma’s and McGee’s devoted followers, I go online to read his or her obituary to learn a little more about that precious life and as a small ritual to pay my final respects.
That’s often where the meaning and organ music come to an abrupt and disappointing halt. For example, the life of one bright and feisty woman—who had been a veteran of the U.S. Navy, had traveled the world, and was a constant source of fascinating stories—was synopsized with, “She enjoyed gardening and playing with her grandchildren before her stroke.” I do understand that for one of my favorites—who in life had described herself online as “a Goddess worshiper, a witch, a palmist, a mother, a lesbian, a teacher, a poet, an artist, a leader, a friend, and a lover”—her family perhaps wanted to tone that down a smidge, particularly in light of their Christian background. However, I think there was more depth to her life than her educational background accompanied by the token kudos, “She enjoyed providing spiritual council, and her infectious laugh will never be forgotten.”
In Jill Conner Browne’s book, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, she highly recommends self-written obituaries. Citing a few of the less-than-stellar results for those who trusted others, she notes obit copy ranging from “He was fond of bowling and squirrels” to “She was always particular about her hair and wore it in a banana clip a lot.”
Writing an obituary for anyone, let alone for oneself, does not rate as the most fun event of the week. However, besides giving some assurance that, after The Big Chill, you’ll be remembered as you’d prefer, it can be a great inventory. Is there anything you want to write there that you haven’t yet done or become? What are you waiting for? It’s time. Take your obituary—and your life—into your own hands and make certain that both are nothing short of amazing.