Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reading the obits

THAT is how it should be done.
RIP, Kimberly -- you were super-loved!
Maybe 8 years ago, I took an evening class on how to write obituaries from a local obituary writer.  I went into the class fired up to write my own obituary, to learn from a pro.  Why leave writing the obit to someone else, someone grieving the loss of me, distracted by details?  Also, writing my own obit seemed a good way to look at my life.  What was it really about?  How did I want to be remembered and what could I do now  to get my life to be about what was most important to me?

And it seemed like it would be really fun.

But my enthusiasm was checked by the fact that everyone else in the class was there to write the obit of a person they were caring for who didn't have long to live.  They were full of pain and turmoil and tears; my interest seemed silly, almost disrespectful.  And writing was really hard for them.  So I kept a lid on my creativity. I might even have, when asked to read aloud, manufactured a dying relation rather than read about me.  

My interest in the obits has been life-long.  Jean-Paul, my father (we always called our parents by their first names), read them, reading aloud parts that he liked, as he did with all stories in the paper.  I have the same tendency.  I think The Kid more than once referred to my interest in obits as morbid.  Possibly.  But there's something so delightful about phrases like "leaves behind his beloved cat Percy," for example, or the list of hobbies and interests.  It can tell such a sweet, sweet story about the person now gone, truly deeply touching.

I won't lie: I do scan the columns for what they died from, gleaning from the "In lieu of flowers, send donations" part if they don't state it outright.  

Also I do think about writing my youngest sister's obituary.  For those who don't know, she has been living with inoperable brain cancer since her diagnosis in December 2008 and has largely cut herself off from our family.  I think about the arc of her life story and how I would tell it.  I write it over and over in my head, preparing for the day that no preparation can make less terrible.

On the same day as Kimberly's obit above (I didn't know her - but her people sure loved her), Krista Frances Walker was described as follows:
There is no conventional definition of Krista Frances Walker.  This is probably because she had a lifetime of experiences that would fill the lives of several people.  Krista was a mother, a warrior, a scholar, a writer, an artist, "The Nali," a sister, a daughter, a debutante and a traveler.  Ask anybody that knew her, and they would agree that she always captured the attention of any crowd.  Krista fiercely and proudly referred to herself as "the celtic viking warrior princess."  She loved the beach, Lake Tahoe, sea turtles and anywhere her passport could take her.
Think about it.  How do you want to be remembered?  It's such a profound way to consider everything you do, how you spend your time.  And most importantly, how you give of yourself to those you love, those who will outlive you and be the ones to tell your story.  

Sending warm thoughts and love to the families of Kimberly and Krista in their grief.  I didn't know either of them, but am profoundly moved by the passion of friends and families for these women, one only 20, the other a grandmother of 5.  As one person wrote in the on-line guest-book, may they live on in memory eternally.  

No comments: