Obituaries Are Fake News
I love obituaries. It is one reason why I read The Times. There is something appealing about trying to summarize a life lived in a few paragraphs. The successes are prominent but the failures ignored. Marriages often come and go, but the life story surges on. A man’s journey is often littered with marriages and fallout; otherwise called children. The mistresses are ignored. And no dead woman was ever a little minx. The men can have a sexual life outside marriage whereas the women are all purity and good deeds. Were they never a controlling bitch at some point in their lives? A woman is only called a tramp behind her back, never in an obituary. Is a child born out of wedlock a failure or a success? However, those sort of truths are missing. Obituaries are fake news, you see.
Life must be a success
The obituary must appear positive. Consequently, no dead person can be a failure. Highlighting their challenging childhood is a useful device. For instance, their mum or dad died or split up and ‘times were hard’. In the next line, the kid is going to Charterhouse or some other exclusive school because a rich uncle is always hiding in the wings. I also loved the one where, ‘he started in the cake department’ and worked his way up to managing director. His dad owned the store!
The line I enjoy is the most cliched and the most frequent. It is, she or he died peacefully surrounded by their family. Do the relatives demand this line or do the papers flog it as a nice finish to a meaningful life? As a realist, I can imagine the deathbed scene. I see the tubes up their nose, the smell of shit and urine, the Alzheimer’s patient screaming blue murder down the ward; all these are ignored. Similarly, the deceased must be a warrior. They always ‘lost the battle’ or ‘fought a brave fight’. Illness is a companion, not an adversary and is managed, not battled.
Obituaries are fake news
Childless, I have a dilemma. If I want to be at Ann’s bedside then she has to die first. In other words, I have to be selfish. Maybe it’s better that I go first. After all, the obits ignore the fact that many women have a far better life as widows. When attending a funeral in the 1960’s, I recall a widow looking down the grave at her late husbands coffin. Her parting words, “Rot in hell, you bastard” is a line you will never read in an obituary.
The death setting
If I have to die in bed then perhaps I need to devise a death tableau; in other words, create my own setting. Nobody then needs to sit watching me expire. If a piece of Wagner is belting out on a disc player, I shall be surrounded by the mythological Valkyries. Brunhilde, a big lass, swoops down, lifts me with ease and carts me off to a natural burial site near to Stonehenge. Sneaky, that! My obituary now has the links it needs to reference my three books, my 45 year funereal past, my introduction of natural burial. Just give em the story; poor council kid makes good.