Monday, October 24, 2016

This is Your Life

Just listened to a story on Minnesota Public Radio concerning obituaries. The two guests write these life stories, one for a large, urban newspaper and the other writes obits upon request from a small town in Minnesota. Such a flood of memories washed over me! I have some experience in this area. I wrote my younger brother's obituary seven years ago, and then argued with the local newspaper editor who cut it to pieces prior to publishing it. His reasoning was that they published obits in a certain style and edited those submitted to conform to that style. Even if the result was shitty writing. He didn't actually say shitty writing, that was my take on the situation. What he did say was that if he allowed the obit to run as I had written it, then he would have to do that for everybody. I fired back that as an editor, it was his job to make editorial decisions on a case by case basis and then stand by those decisions. He didn't have a response for my argument. The obituary was eventually run in its originally submitted form. I wasn't just being contrary, I felt strongly that this was my brother's life story and it should be told in a way that reflected him accurately, not in a cookie-cutter fashion. Three years later when our mother died, my sister had a much more pleasant experience with writing and submitting Mom's obituary. My most dear brother-in-law wrote his own obit. He had nearly four years to ponder his life story after being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Mike loved words and possessed a remarkable sense of humor so it was fitting that he wrote his own legacy. I was also reminded of a friend who as a fledgling reporter was sent out to interview a couple who was celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary and write about it. She ended up writing the husband's obit as well when she arrived at their home just after the ambulance did. Also brought to mind was a favorite Carl Hiaasen novel, Basket Case, where the main character writes obituaries for a living. I'm wondering if I should get a head start on writing my own obit or if I should trust those I leave behind to write my life's story. Then I wonder if it's a bit morbid to consider it at all. Maybe it should contain a link to this blog. Maybe that's too much information. I'm left with the feeling that what makes a well-lived life isn't so easy to translate to the page. It's more about what memories of your own are triggered by seeing a name you are familiar with than the dates of birth and marriage and death and number of survivors and other facts related. It's not how much money we make or awards we win. It's the connections we make with others. It's the stories, not the words. 

No comments: