Sunday, June 03, 2018

Reading and Writing Obituaries

John and I have birthdays next month---73 and 78---so it makes a certain amount of sense to be thinking about our own obituaries and end-of-life issues. It's never too far from my mind that I may become John's third dearly departed wife. But who knows, he may stop at two. Anyway a few months ago we had a free Sunday afternoon and I said to  him that it was time for us to write our own obituaries. He did. It's actually pretty good, especially after I made some clever improvements. I didn't write mine. I ended up writing a poem about writing my own obituary, which is also pretty good, if I say so myself. Neither of our writings are yet, however, ready for publication. So,  how does one write a good obituary?

Two weeks ago, I actually cut out from the Grand Rapids Press 9 portions of obituaries to prove a trend that is occurring (one that we're joining)---just in case one of our 3 kids might object to our decision of the last several months. And today I noticed more obits that signal the same trend: "Jim chose to be cremated and also wished to have no services." Some obits simply make no mention of a service at all or say that a private family remembrance has already taken place. Many say that "messages and memories" may be left online at a particular site. We have both decided to be cremated and to set a time for a nice dinner for extended family both here in Grand Rapids and in Spooner, Wisconsin, when and if my family is able to gather.

Way back when I was in high school I wrote an essay against funerals and viewing bodies, and I still feel essentially the same. Both daughters have affirmed the concept of cremation; Carlton doesn't want to talk about it. One of the dreads I've always had, should John pre-decease me, is having to stand around a funeral home for a 4-hour afternoon and another 3-hour evening while long lines of people (whose favorite activity in old age is going to "visitations") walk by and hug me and try to explain how they knew him 31 years ago when he was a colleague---and have  not seen  him for 3 decades, that is, until they see him right there lying in a coffin. I want to hear such stories but not at a time when I'm bowed down with such grief that I can't even think straight. I want people to write up their memories and post them online. As for John, if I pre-decease him, he probably dreads the thought of having to stand around in a funeral home for an afternoon and evening while no one shows up. But, hey, he fills his free time doing crosswords.