Monday, March 28, 2016

Let Me Help You with Your Obituary

I got a text from a friend this weekend, telling me that his young daughter had to go to the funeral of a friend's father.

He was so young, my friend typed.

I'm so sorry, I responded.

He had a heart attack on his treadmill.  I really need to get myself in shape.

Now, I'll admit that wasn't my first reaction.  In fact, I was thinking, "Shit.  If he died working out I might as well stay on the couch with my pork rinds."

I don't actually eat pork rinds, but you get the idea.

I don't make it a habit of reading the obituaries, but when I do I'm always annoyed by the fact that most don't say how the person died.  That may be morbid of me, but it's the truth.

I mean, you need to give us a hint.  Tell us to send contributions to the American Cancer Society or  a random rehab center or something.  Give us a little bit of a clue.

If I see someone listed in the obits is elderly I like to think they died peacefully in their sleep, preferably under a Pottery Barn duvet, 600 thread count sheets, their small dog at the foot of their bed for company, and their devoted child who always checks in with them finding them at 7 AM the next morning so as to lay them to rest expeditiously.

That's how I'd like to go. 

So, if you're old and you die and you don't say how you died, that's how I'm going to assume it happened.

Now, people dying young - that's a whole other issue.  And if you die "before your time" as they need to do us the common courtesy of telling us how.

And please...don't tell us the truth.

We don't want you to tell us you were sick because we can get sick.  We don't want you to tell us you had a heart attack riding your bike because that can happen to us, too.  We want to hear you died in a manner in which we never could.  And that will make us all feel better.

For example, here is what I'd like mine to say:

CATHERINE TIDD, age 100, died while training her pet dragon.

I can hear the collective sigh of relief from all of the middle-aged readers thinking, "Well, thank God.  I would never train a dragon so I won't die." 

Then they would take a drag from their cigarettes, down their Bloody Mary, and weave in and out of traffic so they can make it to work on time.


This weekend was an emotional one and I don't exactly know why.  While the kids and I love Easter, it's not one of those holidays for us like Christmas that's steeped in many family traditions.

We dye eggs. We hide eggs.  We eat eggs.

No biggie.

But after a lovely meal at my parents' house, the kids and I came home to relax and I started watching that movie Chances Are with Cybill Shepherd and Robert Downey Jr. about the reincarnated husband and by the end of it I was bawling my eyes out.

I think it was the combination of sappiness and that Cher and Peter Cetera song at the end, but I was just a mess.

It did not help that my son came into my room at that moment and said, "Let's watch the home movie!"

The only home movie we have on tape is from 2004, when he was born.  There are plenty of moments with my husband throughout the movie and I found myself falling a little deeper.

This was then topped by the discovery of a wedding video I didn't know we had that the kids had found in one of our moving boxes from this summer.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

I watched Brad wander around the church, our ushers escort all of our grandparents to their seats (all of whom are now deceased), and my 20-year-old self walk down the aisle with her 20-years-younger father.

As people entered the church I couldn't help but exclaim to the kids, "There's so-and-so!  Oh, my gosh I forgot she was there! And look - there's your dad's friend from Pennsylvania!"

They all watched in silence, but I found myself attending an emotional reunion of sorts.  I so desperately wanted to go back to that day;  not because it was my wedding day, but because everyone was there.  All of the people I loved in one room.

And as I watched myself walk down the aisle I hoped that there was some part of me back then that forgot about the dress, flowers, and cake for one moment and just allowed herself to enjoy being with those people.

She didn't know it then, but there would come a time when she would know that's all that mattered.