Monday, July 11, 2016

Rites of Passage

 I don't remember exactly when I started reading the obituaries but somewhere in the last decade or so, I sporadically find myself reading about the lives of total strangers upon the event of their demise.  This tendency to read obits might be a rite of passage as one becomes older.  I think when I was younger, I was still going with the idea I was immortal.

Now, I suppose some of you are already thinking that I have crossed over into a subject that is too morbid for your blog reading enjoyment....but as it turns out that some people are getting very creative with their final farewell "notices" and dare I say, having some fun with it.    (NOTE: I recognize I am using the word fun in the very broadest of definitions here.)

I think there was a time when obituaries were all rather dire sounding and gloomy by their very nature of being...well a death notice.  BUT... Gone are the days when an impartial newspaper "obit person" is left to type some fact-filled synopsis of a person's life containing just the pertinent information  of an individual's  birth date, death date and where the funeral would be held. That approach is so old school and we don't want to leave this world being less then trendy, now do we?
More evolved..albeit deceased,  people are creating their own personal essays that are more in the vein of mini-novellas about their lives and feelings. 

I have, of course, found a couple of representative examples.  Please note,  I
have removed some of the personal information and condensed the content just to exemplify the creative ideas of these particular authors' (RIP) Just consider my two examples as the equivalent of Reader Digest Condensed versions of their final words. For full disclosure, though, these are real obits that I found.  I am not making these up.

My first example, caught my attention because he manages to be somewhat humble while simultaneously  dissing his siblings and their abilities as parents.  

Excerpts from an obituary for James "Jim" G***
James "Jim" G. made his last wildly inappropriate and probably sarcastic comment on July 28th.

Jim was born and immediately dubbed "our favorite child" to John and Joan G. in March of 1963

He is survived by his wife of 25 years the recently wealthy and overly devoted Julie ...... Additionally he is survived by his much older sister Lisa D. of whythehelldoyoulivethere Rhode Island, and younger brother John...... Jim's demise will now allow them to emerge from his shadow. A variety of nieces and nephews with mediocre upbringing would complete the list of those left to embellish his memory.

His 30 plus years as a volunteer soccer coach from the kindergarten to High school level afforded hundreds of children and parents exposure to Jim's unique personality. Half a dozen or so of these folks might speak of him fondly if pressed.

Jim died knowing that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was the best movie ever. Bruce Springsteen best recording artist, Clint Eastwood the baddest man on the planet, and that chicks dig El Caminos.

His regrets were few but include eating a rotisserie hot dog from a convenience store in the summer of 2002, not training his faithful dog Rita to detect cancer, and that no video evidence exists of his prowess on the soccer field or in the bedroom.

Although a less than average life span, Jim did not live an average life. He traveled where he wanted to travel, laughed inappropriately at every chance, learned what he wanted to learn, fix what he wanted to fix and loved who he wanted to love.

Cremation will take place at the family's convenience, and his ashes will be kept around as long as they match the décor.

Anyone wearing black will not be admitted to the memorial. "

More recently I came across a very lengthy obit, that I read and reread because at first I just didn't understand it.  It turns out that a lot of it was excerpts from U2 songs and as I am not terribly knowable of all things U2 so I had a bit of trouble following it.  Due to space constraints I will start somewhat in the middle
of it.  Again, I am leaving a lot out in terms of content but the uptake here is that you can host a contest in your obituary if you are a creative sort.  This woman had her friends vying  for her collection of U2 memorabilia with totes included. I obviously would of lost the contest due to my complete lack of U2 knowledge.

Nancy D. (as in Dog) C********

 It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away, ceased to breathe, will no longer be singing songs that pop into her head, and can finally stay focused. She will no longer have to get up early, do laundry, clean, remember to get her dry cleaning, or do the dishes,  .........
 A reception will be held .....Yes, you will have to listen to some of the CD's she made of her most favorite songs during this time. . . (It will be more than U2, people.) .........
 In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to our National Parks System,..... or your local liquor store. If by chance you know all the quoted U2 songs in this, check with Kevin and you will win Nancy's life time collection of all things U2 and the totes are included. Pick up only, sorry no delivery. .....
 She loved the light-brite she got for Christmas but never got her Udo. Be thankful that she didn't, if she had all of you would have gotten a bunch of stupid silk screened crap from her. She hated gum smacking, when someone didn't use their turn signals while driving, male urinals, and cabinet doors being left open. She is preceded in death by Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Sterling, Richard Nixon, Johnny Cash and anyone not breathing. Survivors include everyone still breathing; .......

(NOTE: I did like her putting in the "D is for Dog" in her name.  I am somewhat disappointed that my middle initial is L.  Nothing fun comes to mind starting with L.  Suggestions encouraged.)

So, my friends, while I plan on being around for a very long time and don't spend an inordinate amount of time working to create the perfect final essay, I am gleaning some ideas on what I might want to say. I can assure you that it will be lengthy with a lot of "thank-yous" involved.

 I think we can agree that all the grown-up stuff like wills, medical directives, TODs and such need to happen  for the sake of being responsible and typically are pretty matter-of-factly written.  All those legally prepared and mundane responsibilities leave leave little room for "creativity"  but as for planning your final "words"  you have some choices. I guess a little thought might be in order as you aren't going to be able to revise them after they are published. 

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