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Write Your Own Obituary

Phyllis Humby's picture
Fri, 11/02/2012 - 16:46 -- Phyllis Humby

Obituaries kill me. Is it my imagination or have they changed over the years? I was always under the impression it was more of a fill in the blank type of thing, Wife of/ Daughter of/ Mother of/ Predeceased by, etc.

Every Saturday morning I open the Globe and Mail eager to read the obits.  The Toronto newspapers have the best selection.  Don’t misunderstand my enthusiasm − I just love a good story.  Many of them are as meaty as a juicy half-hour biography segment on TV.  I love those biography shows.

The notices are even more interesting when there are accompanying pictures.  There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether it should be a current picture.  Admittedly, it is interesting to see how an elderly person looked in their prime. Maybe there should be two pictures. Like a before and after, if you will. Where was I? Oh, yes.

In one story..oops..biography..sorry..obituary, the deceased wrote his own obit. Before he died, of course. He sounded confused. (I’m being serious now.) He wrote something like... well, I guess it’s over, or words to that effect. Just a bare bones obit, nothing overly detailed or flowery.  However, it changed subtly towards the end. Like maybe he died while he was writing it and someone else finished up.  That thought crossed my mind.  Truthfully, his obituary made me uncomfortable.  I was reading his last dying utterance while slurping coffee in a comfy chair, bare feet anchored on the ottoman.  I’m not totally insensitive.

Some of the obituary announcements chronicle the entire lifetime.  They’re fascinating.  The education and degrees alone can take up a couple of paragraphs.  University, college, on-line classes, correspondence courses, first aid refreshers.   Every career advancement and change of address since1942 is included.   Entertaining as it is on a dreary Saturday morning, I’m not sure it’s necessary. 

They go on to relate fun times with the kids and the grandchildren, not forgetting out of town cousins and Uncle Fred who visited from Borneo.  Wistful memories of the tour of Europe in ’63, summers at the cottage…the canoe trip up the river with Sally…that night at the Super 8 with Gloria…oops, sorry again.

Yeah, sometimes there’s just too much information.  Perhaps some of the more personal memories are best shared between family and friends at the Celebration of Life.

No disrespect to the deceased. One day I’ll be in the obits column, right? Well, not in the Toronto paper. The announcement will probably be in one of those online publications. The Lambton Shield will carry it. They post nice pictures too.

Maybe the man who wrote his own obituary notice had the right idea. He wrote the information required for people to recognize him and know that he had passed on.

All of this makes me contemplate whether I should write my own obituary now. I imagine it looking like this if I didn’t − Phyllis Humby finally passed away this morning at the age of 103.  Last week, on the way to the pantry under the stairs to get a bottle of ketchup, she got her feet tangled in a pile of sheets on the laundry room floor. The family decided to do without ketchup and continued with their meal unaware that Nana Humby was in distress.

Phyllis was quite a talker. She talked all the time and mostly no one listened. Then she began to write. It was much quieter. She loved her great-grandchildren with a passion and liked nothing more than to read to them each time they visited. Unfortunately, it was always the same old Trixie Beldon or The Bobbsey Twins book. Their visits ended some years ago.

After careful consideration, I scrawled the next few words into my journal…

Phyllis Humby, wildly enthusiastic about life, accepting of death. Rest In Peace.

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