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I’ve been thinking about my obituary a lot lately.
Not morbidly. Not obsessively.
Maybe it’s because I recently turned 55. As in, yesterday I turned 55. In a blink, I went from midlife to senior citizen. Ouch. Sigh. It happens, younger friends. Don’t think it doesn’t.
In that regard, what would “they” write about me if I passed suddenly? And more importantly, because I write, what would I write about me if I could speak at my own memorial? If that’s not food for thought, I don’t know what it is.
Well, first things first, my obituary would be honest. Embellished perhaps, liberties taken and exaggerations made, yes, but at its core, honest.
Lawd knows I haven’t been perfect. That’s for sure. I’ve made mistakes. But, who hasn’t? Some biggies and some smallies. Some I’ve set free, flapping in the wind for all to see, and some that will surely be buried right along with me. They all left a mark, but who cares about marks when a body is disintegrating? Okay, maybe that’s a tad morbid. Bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this.
I’ve written some quality pieces (if I do say so, myself), but I’ve also written lotsa sloppy crap. Lotsa “know-it-all” craptastic crap, as if I’ve got the answers or something. I sure don’t. That’s been documented nicely, and well-established.
One thing with writing, though, is one can’t simply wait to be inspired. Sometimes I pick a topic, and sometimes, in a rush of poetic inspiration, the topic picks me. It’s a whole f*ckin’ process.
Life. Life is a process, too.
I was patient and kind. I was a selfish asshole, at times. I was jealous and judgmental. I was empathetic, and benevolent. To others, I gave my time, my energy, my good nature, and my good will. I was self- reflective. I always tried to change my ways.
I wrestled demons, and conquered beasts.
The terrain of my timeline was littered with unfulfilled potential (the worst kind of potential there is) and sweet accomplishments. I toggled between mid-level glory and failure equally, between the pursuance of hopeful possibility, and bitter dead ends, which is a complicated way of saying I started a lot of unfinished novels. But doesn’t life itself feel like an ever-evolving, ever-unfinished novel? It did for me. Holden Caulfield and I had a lot in common. We both called upon truth, abhorred phoniness, and resisted getting older.
I made people laugh. We’d be hard-pressed to find a sound lovelier for both the joker and the amused than that of a full-bellied, head thrown back, unbridled laugh, deep from the gut. Something so wonderfully clever or silly, we just can’t help but giggle endlessly. When a quip lands squarely, it protects us from all the ugly parts of ourselves and our worlds, for a small moment in time. Yes, I made people laugh.
But, remember folks, the jokers among us are often the ones hiding pain. Sometimes, from trauma, a clown is born. So, make sure the clowns are really okay, okay?
My obituary, the one I wrote myself, would say I expressed myself freely. I looked for the truth—in myself, in others—and I wrote about it. I wrote volumes about feelings, and yet still had so much trouble expressing myself verbally. I almost always botched the words released from my mouth, but the words in my head? They came from the same gene that helped me organize my closet four times a year. Odd wiring I suppose.
In this world of media saturation and human detachment, I tried to remain connected. I tried to keep it real. I showed my messy, messy self so you could show yours.
I forgave. I offered grace. I kept an open heart and an open mind. I didn’t give up. I loved fiercely, and even though it took a long time, I even loved myself.
I would write that I remained loving until the very end because isn’t love truly the only reason why we are here?
An obituary is a weird topic. It’s a think piece. It’s a big picture and a small snapshot rolled into a few paragraphs. It’s decidedly weird to try to write something about myself in the past tense and I get it if you don’t get it. For me, it’s an exercise, at best, in assessment, acceptance, navigation, pivoting, and finding a future trajectory. It’s truth telling and story selling, with a little sugar sprinkled on top.
It’s something that makes me think about all the things I still want to do with my life, the people I want to laugh and have fun with, and all the bullsh*t stuff I no longer wish to sweat.
If I wrote my own obituary, I would want to write that my life was a little bit like collected stories set inside colored glass, all lined up like a rainbow, sitting inside a well-lit window of time, put in place (and taking up space) to quietly brighten an otherwise cloudy day.