Obituaries. I’m good at writing obituaries. This is not something I ever set out to do, but a few years ago, I wrote obituaries for both of my father’s parents (my last remaining grandparents), for my father-in-law’s sister, and for a beloved family friend. And as I have crossed that bright line of 40, I can only imagine that I’m going to write more of them.
The thing is, writing the obituary is the kindest, most useful thing I can do. I’ve long thought that death is perhaps the worst time to write that final, difficult piece, especially as families struggle and break down, simply trying to survive the loss of someone they loved. And although this is a difficult task, for me it is not an impossible one. It is the last way that I can tell someone that I loved them, how much they meant to me, the impact they had on my life. I would hope that I was telling them nothing new, that I’d had the good grace and common sense to tell them in person before I no longer had that option, but I’m not always that smart. An obituary is sometimes for me as much as is the person for whom I’m writing it.
My friend Hilda and I have long threatened to amuse ourselves during long drives by writing our own obituaries. We find this prospect to be the height of hilarity and not morbid in the least. Perhaps this is our way of staring down fate, remind people that we went out with our boots on, but it is also useful. Not only can we write our own lives and map out our own endings, but we can make things a touch easier for those we leave behind. Sometimes it’s good to be good at something bad.