Someday Dead Writers Need To Worry!
Do ya’ll ever notice that the older you get, the more attention you pay to the obituaries section in the newspaper?
I hate to admit it, but it’s true. When I was a young man, I never even bothered looking at the obituaries. The concept of death seemed so far removed that it really didn’t have much impact on me as to who might be dying out there. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t wish death on them or anything, but the truth is I didn’t know them, had no ties to them, and for me death, dying, and obits were concepts eons away from my day-to-day realities. Consequently, I totally ignored reading them.
You can get by with that for awhile, but a funny thing eventually happens to all of us - we get older. And, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’ve begun looking at the obits much more closely now because I know more people who have passed away. First it’s one person, then another, and yet another. Pretty soon, you find that you’re reading the obits each day, hoping that you don’t find someone you know or like in there, and most of all being glad that you’re not among those listed.
From that, you begin realizing that these obits are what a lot of people are going to remember you by. Think about it - most of the time when someone dies that we know or care about, we cut out their obits and store them someplace. Typically they go into a family scrapbook. Then, over the years, the obit is occasionally dusted off and looked at by relatives, and a conversation typically ensues about the departed family member. And that’s what really scares me, because one day I’ll die and my own potential obit will be out there for any and all to see.
I imagine some of ya’ll might be thinking, “Geez, Ed, why would that bother you?” Well, I’ll go right ahead and tell you. You see, a few weeks ago I was scanning the obits, and I noticed this gentleman down in south Georgia who had just died. The obit discussed his funeral arrangements, and then pointed out that he’d written a book about the history of his county. In fact, they noted it right out there in italics, like this,
”...and Mr. Berryhill was the author of “The History of Blah-Blah County,” first published in 1986.”
Right then it hit me - one day my own obit is gonna go in the paper. And somewhere in it, right after they tell all the necessary stuff, they’re gonna say,
“...and Mr. Williams was the author of the books, “Sex, Dead Dogs, and Me,” “Rough As A Cob,” and others.”
Frankly, that makes me wince more than a picture of Amy Carter in a bikini. I can visualize a great grandchild of mine pulling out the family scrapbook and noticing a yellowed old newspaper article. Out of curiosity, he/she begins reading it. And, as they read it, they’re gonna find it’s about their great granddad, so they’ll keep reading it as they might want to know a little about me. Finally, they’ll come to the part about my books, read their titles, and say, “Ewwwwwwwwwww! Why did great granddad choose these titles for his books? Was he weird?”
Brrrrrrrrr - now ya’ll can understand why all this bothers me. I really think these book titles are gonna follow me on out into the great beyond, so I’ve got to start thinking up a strategy now. A strategy that’ll make me look as good as possible to my future great grandkids. I think my best hope is the chance that some of my current relatives might be horse thieves, gamblers, or even worse yet, vegetarians. If they are, and they die before I do, I can cut out their obit and make sure that it makes its way into our family scrapbook. Then, I’ll make my son Will swear to me that when I die he’ll make sure that my obit gets put right next to the vegetarian’s. That way, at least a little of the heat will be taken off whenever my future great grandchild sits down and reads my obit. In comparison to the vegetarian I might not come off too bad - at least I can hope for that.
Well, I’d write more, but I’ve got to run, as I have a whole lot of work to do. I need to start doing some research on my relatives, and then determine what kind of health a few of them are in....
This article was posted on March 16, 2005