Oh, Oh–Obits! Monday Meanderings

Photo: cbsnews

Photo: cbsnews

I’d like to begin this morbid-sounding article with a few unrelated incidents about obituaries:

• A recent obituary in our local paper, the Reno Gazette Journal, went viral—perhaps you saw it. The children of an abusive woman wrote a scathing indictment of their mother, tracing the history of their life with her, which was one of torture.
• At a writer’s conference I attended a number of years ago, in the poetry breakout session, the poet, Julia Conner, began by asking us to write our own obituary.
• While I’ve always skimmed obituaries, recently I’ve begun to notice that many dates-of-birth are clustered around my own age group. This morning, for example, 30% of them dealt with persons my age or younger.
• Now and again, there are stories of people’s lives that make me wish I’d known them in life. These are the ones that go beyond the facts, successes and CV’s and are able to capture the essence of a person’s humor, joie de vivre or loving nature.

How can an article summarize a life? How can we really get to know the real person?

I attended a funeral once of a good-hearted but psychologically wounded man who was known to be a pathological liar. He was someone I knew so many years, but who I had learned to accept with a bit of discernment. So did most everyone else who knew and, yes, loved him. His daughter, in eulogizing him said, “In his own way, Dad taught us about truth.” Most of those attending the crowded service knew what she was getting at and we laughed. I wonder what the priest thought.

My suggestion for a bit of reflection is to write your own obituary…twice.

• Write one as it would be today in complete honesty, sort of like the brutal one about the abusive woman Her children explained, in a subsequent interview by the RGJ, that their intent was to draw attention to the reality of child abuse. Oh, but please don’t make it depressing. Don’t forget those wonderful things about you you would want others to remember.
• Now, write the second one the way you wish to be remembered. All of us still have time to make those desires become reality.

In the workshop, the poet-leader had us read our own obituaries as a way to introduce ourselves to one another. I’m not asking you to share yours here, though. I’m sure most of us, if we had to post it, would have a hard time being totally honest. Somewhere I have the notes from that workshop. I wonder what I wrote and how it really reflects my life.

I got the idea for this post from a poem I wrote years ago and had no idea what to do with…so, here it is. Not stellar poetry, but hopefully it makes the point.


How to sum up a life
in 200 words or less:
No adjectives
or otherwise descriptive
phrases. Forget those
gone ahead
or somewhat
No room for emotion.
Focus on achievement.
But does that really plumb
the depths of
who you are?
What’s left?
What remains?

Have a wonderful fulfilling week! I’m still having to limit my time at the computer because of a minor health issue (tendonitis). Not a condition that should be life-limiting!

Photo: newsone

Photo: newsone


6 thoughts on “Oh, Oh–Obits! Monday Meanderings

  1. I wonder where the tradition of the obituary came from, or if it has changed from something else to what it is today. It seems odd that we should try to encapsulate a person’s life in columns–filled with facts for strangers to read. Why? But it seems so very important to many people who read the obits daily and to those planning their “exits.”


  2. siggiofmaine says:

    Thank you…interesting exercise…I’ve done it, but not as you suggested in two steps.

    Mine would be…

    “I lived long enough to be a problem to my children.
    All the money is spent.
    I didn’t have time to clean out the nine zillion photos I’ve taken.
    Finally, peace and quiet.”


  3. janehewey says:

    I’ve not written from this angle yet, I think I’ll give it a go, Victoria.


  4. Interesting concept . . . this is a tough one. Definitely food for thought.


  5. brian miller says:

    finally, he is at rest. and peace.


    interesting. i will give this more thought


  6. Jamie Dedes says:

    She came. She loved. She flew.


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