Friday, December 5, 2014
Here in Lambertville, Richard, the funeral director, writes the obituaries for his clients. We chatted with him about that the other day. One of the local guys had just died, a man everyone in town knew by sight. The obituary that appeared in the paper was mildly flattering. No mention, for instance, of the time he robbed the poor box at St. John the Evangelist. Harold wanted to know whether the wife of the deceased wrote it, and Richard said no, he did. "I write 'em all," he said. When he first came to town, old ladies would accost him on the street and say, "You got it wrong about Myrtle." He can only put down what the relatives tell him to, after all. With the passage of time he came to bury most of the old ladies, and now there is no one left to complain.
I read the obituary page of the Trenton Times every morning. You get to a stage in your life where you have a legitimate expectation of finding people you know. This morning I was brought up short by an obit (not of someone I knew, nor did Richard write it) of a Mercer County man whose proudest, and maybe only, achievement in life was that he bowled three perfect games.
Makes you think. What do we want to be remembered for? My sister, when she was dying, rather cruelly insisted that I write her obituary, listing all of her professional achievements as a fine artist, which were considerable, so that she could check it over before she checked out. To my horror I found after she was gone that the newspapers want money to run obituaries, and they make you pay by the inch. She wanted to be in the Washington Post. We couldn't afford even a truncated version. My feeling is, everyone who knew my sister knows what a marvelous woman she was, and the Washington Post can go chase itself. I bet they run Kim Kardashian's obituary for free.
What do any of us want to be remembered for? It was said of my aunt Kathleen that she made the best doughnuts in the Saint Croix Valley, although there was much more to her life than that. Of me, let them say that I made the best gumbo ya-ya in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and that I was exceedingly fond of my family and friends. Not that I'm expecting to cash in my chips anytime soon, but, hey, you never know.
© 2014 Kate Gallison