Rest in Peace is not what I would pick for my tombstone. You Go Girl would not be my choice either. Maybe something like, Well, She Tried.
It is difficult to choose just three words that would adequately say goodbye to a loved one or sum up that person’s life.
That is why I like to read the daily obituary page. First, to make sure that I’m not prematurely in there for having left this planet. Second, to see if anyone I know has departed without telling me they were going.
I don’t read obituaries about young people who tragically leave us way before their time. That would make me sad and I don’t read the obituaries to feel unhappy.
I read them to reaffirm my belief that our community is inhabited by a lot of wonderful people doing good things for their family, for their community and sometimes, even for humanity. Yes, even here in Castro Valley.
I don’t read the short ones or those that start with “she was an amazing quilter” or “she loved to make jam preserves for her family.” Not that quilting and jam-making aren’t honorable activities. But what I am looking for are people who have dedicated their lives to serving their community as well as being beloved by their family members, extended family members and those related by marriage to those folks — all duly listed.
I want to read about people who started on the bottom rung of the ladder and climbed to the top by doing good deeds, sometimes spectacular deeds, on their journey. People who have overcome adversity inspire me. It shows those of us with less confidence that we can do it, too.
Obituaries encapsulate 50 to 100 years of a person’s life in ten column inches. That is an amazing feat when you consider that some biographies, like Albert Einstein’s, is over 500 pages.
Joe Blow was born in the Midwest, joined the Army, served in World War II, married his high school sweetheart, went to college on the G.I. Bill, moved to California, became an engineer, worked for G.E., has a dozen patents, had four children.
An ordinary life until…..he wrote three books about saving the environment, was president of the Sierra Club, gave generously of his time to building soccer fields for kids in poor neighborhood and he volunteered for Habitat for Humanity.
Joe was also a good father, husband and grandfather. A life explained in 90 words for a man who was no Einstein but nonetheless made his world a better place.
You may not decide to write your own 500-page autobiography, but you can write your own obituary the way you want to be remembered. I wrote mine as a class assignment several years ago and it was not only fun, but it was affirming to look back on all I had done and all that had been done for me.
After writing my obituary, I wrote a “bucket list” of all the things I always wanted to do but had put off for years. Skydiving is not on the list. Doing that could cause my obituary to be used sooner rather than later.