The End. Or the Beginning? Writing Your Own Obituary
When I was eleven, I wrote my own obituary.
Don't worry. I wasn't some sort of Adams Family dark child. Nor did I suffer from any type of incurable disease, although I have been told by amateur palm readers that my lifeline is short. (Anybody want to see?)
Composing my obit was an assignment given by my sixth grade English teacher. Somehow, I don't think this would go over well in the current mood of hyper political correctness, but thirty years ago, having middle school kids take a pen to paper to consider their own deaths went blissfully under the radar.
The truth is, the exercise wasn't about death at all.
It was actually a lesson in self-reflection. One that I am still hugely grateful for.
Here's the thing. When you consider your own ending, you're actually thinking about your life, legacy and what you're leaving behind. At the core of this slightly unconventional activity, was the concept of conscious thought, as well as taking ownership of your existence so you can live the life that you want, not the one someone else has in mind. Now granted, I didn't pick all of this up as a pre-teen. But the seed was planted.
A bit dark? Maybe. But, the purpose of the exercise greatly outweighed, any shades of accompanying morbidness, especially in this world where so many people just move aimlessly through.
This long ago assignment crawled out of the depths of my memory bank, in response to the obituary of Robert Spiegel. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hartfordcourant/obituary.aspx?n=robert-spiegel&pid=154840762&fhid=4309
Since his death on November 30th, the obit of the professor Emeritus at Central Connecticut State University, has gone viral, well, because of bits like this: 'At the end of his life, Robert battled with cardiac disease and dementia. Where as the disease did thankfully erase most memories of the '62 Mets season, it eventually also claimed his life.'
Eh. I'm unimpressed.
Not because of Professor Spiegel's life, which seemed to be an amazing one that was well spent. And certainly not because of the wordsmithing of his son Jeff, who created a humorous tribute to his dad, that clearly captured his spirit. I am underwhelmed because of the fact that obituaries like this should be commonplace, instead of exception.
But they're not. Instead, most are collections of frighteningly similar facts and mundane details. And I wonder, why? Does all the blame go to obit writers, for creating a standard template in the name of efficiency? Or does it speak to the much larger and more serious issue of a population simply sleepwalking through the human experience? You're really the only one that can answer that. And perhaps writing your own obituary is the best way to take stock.
I honestly don't remember what I wrote about my passing, as an eleven year old. I'm mildly curious about the life that my younger self thought may have unfolded. But I highly doubt that my limited experience would have ever dared to dream the life that I'm living now. Yet, all that really doesn't matter. I know that I'm the one with the final word.