I have an odd hobby. I share it with my husband. We’re not morbid folk, but we love ourselves a good obituary.
Its origins date back 22 years, when my otherwise healthy mom died at 73 of lung cancer. I was 32, just found out I was infertile, and was as close to her as a shoelace is to a sneaker. My grief was the size of the galaxy (and then some). I trudged around for a year, my only aim each day, not to break into tears while grocery shopping. Anyway, that was when I started to read obituaries. The people who got to die at 95 made me mad. My mother had so much less time. Oh, the unfairness. The people who died prematurely, and way too early, made me feel better that my mom had at least had a somewhat long run. Anyway, my husband got into the act, too. And pretty soon, we obituary surfed for laughs. We tried to ourfunny each other.
For instance, take this New York Times obit for Selma Koch:
“Famed brassiere maven: Selma Koch, a Manhattan store owner who earned a national reputation by helping women find the right bra size, mostly through a discerning glance and never with a tape measure, died Thursday at Mount Sinai Medical Center. She was 95 and a 34B.” http://www.oddee.com/item_96879.aspx#Him1jT4gtZiGwyI3.99
Or how about this one:
“Louis J. Casimir Jr. bought the farm Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004, having lived more than twice as long as he had expected and probably three or four times as long as he deserved. Although he was born into an impecunious family, in a backward and benighted part of the country at the beginning of the Great Depression, he never in his life suffered any real hardships. Many of his childhood friends who weren’t killed or maimed in various wars became petty criminals, prostitutes, and/or Republicans. Lou was a daredevil: his last words were “Watch this!”
C’mon, they’re funny, right?
Anyway, I worry about my own obituary when the time comes. I went to a funeral a few years ago, and the deceased was so accomplished, I started to panic, feeling like a Junior in high school, who suddenly realizes they better do some volunteer work, learn to play the ukele while water skiing, try to break the world’s record in shoe tying, and create an organization for homelss rodents, in order to beef up their college applications. What would my obit read? “Toni Lansbury, She wrapped a nice gift. She could really make a poster.”
As bizarre as it sounds, I am grateful for the solace, giggles, and most of all for the perspective that obituary reading has given me. They always remind me that yours can be written at any time, so you’d better take a big bite out of the world each and every day. Because hey, nobody knows when exactly your life will be summed up in a paragraph.