Thursday, June 21, 2018

funeral planning for those who don’t plan to die

aka write your own obituary while you’re still alive

the first time I ever wrote an obituary was back in about 1968 or 1969 when one of my Journalism instructors had us write one for ourselves, projecting ahead to some future date.  oh my, what a life I ended up with, lol.  I can’t remember the specifics, it’s been too many years since I wrote that ode to a fantastic, generous, fulfilled life.  the hubris of youth, eh?

the next time I had occasion to write an obit was 1991, and that year I wrote 3 of them.  that was a good year, all right.  my father was the first of the lot, and actually it wasn’t the obit I wrote, it didn’t occur to me to do so.  but I wrote out a eulogy for the memorial mass, and that’s almost the same thing.  I included personal reminiscences and threw in a maudlin poem for good measure.  side note: five years later, to acknowledge the anniversary, i asked my younger brother in Ireland to write a poem for the obit section.  it was wonderful, and what a great way to commemorate a life!

but back to 1991,  I lost two very close friends, Dennis in the Summer and Dorothy in the Fall.  both had been active in the hot air ballooning community, so I wrote a couple of “life well-lived” pieces for the balloon cub newsletter.  I enjoyed doing that, because it provided me the opportunity to inject some of their personalities into those pieces.  

while I don’t read the obit section as a habit, I’ve always been befuddled by the tendency for obits to be stiff and dry.  “name” was born, married mr. x, had 3 children.  survived by parents, siblings and their wives/husbands, and friends too numerous to count.  services will be Friday at noon.  I find it sad that someone’s life is condensed into basic sound bites without any indication what the person was really like.  what did they like to do, what activities were they involved in, what were their dreams? 

since 1991 I’ve written several other obits that actually were printed in the obit section of the newspaper.  I always feel pleased when someone asks me to do so, it’s just a way for me to help them during a difficult time.  plus I get to act like a sleuth, digging for the details that will ultimately blossom into a friendly profile that will mean something to the family and friends of the deceased. 

sometimes, though, it’s like pulling teeth.  about a year ago a friend asked me to write her sister’s obit.  I had plenty of lead time, since she didn’t need it until they were set to travel to Texas to bury her ashes in the family plot.  I’ve inquired several times for background details, but have yet to receive anything except a picture!  I told my friend I don’t write well under pressure, so to please not call me the night before they drive to Texas and expect the output the next morning, ha!

several years ago, my sister-in-law’s mother died.  I knew her very well and spent a lot of time not only visiting with her, but interviewing her for a family recipe memoir book I had just started.  as a result I had lots of basic details, fleshed out with tidbits of historical and geographical references as well as family anecdotes.  here’s one excerpt:

“Phyllis loved being involved in all the family activities, the visits from her grandchildren, making new friends, and of course continuing her lifelong tradition of cooking wonderful meals for family and friends.  The kitchen was the epicenter of Phyllis’ life, and her thoughts always revolved around planning menus for upcoming visits, special occasions, and family get-togethers.  The family has many warm memories of Phyllis’ favorite dishes, especially her fried chicken, potato salad, and of course her famous peanut butter cookies.   Her granddaughter’s favorite was shoo fly pie, and she fondly remembers how her grandmother  pronounced pie as “pah”. 

 here's another excerpt, this one posted by a long-time, online friend about her brother-in-law:
“Putty's lifelong career was with Chevron/Texaco, but his heart was in Little League, where he proudly coached decades of players, including his son and grandson, and energetically argued with the umpires. He loved baseball and playing golf with his boys, and he loved barbecuing for family and friends. He loved eating. And if you knew Putty, you know this is true: he loved talking. Putty loved to talk and he loved to argue. He could, and did, talk to anyone about anything, and he was indefatigable. It was best to just listen and nod.”

and one more snippet, from another online friend and blogger, writing about her favorite uncle.  this one appeared in the New York Times: 
“Another milestone in the happy history of Rolly’s life on Earth occurred on October 16, 2013 when, at the age of 86, he walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time in his life.  The trek would have taken half as long if he hadn’t stopped every few minutes to pronounce that this view, or the one a few paces further, was the most terrific, most beautiful view of New York , of civilization, or of humanity that he’d ever seen.  Rolly is survived by a legion of family and friends who have to figure out how to live in a world without him.”

to quote the blogger/artist/author friend (Vivian Swift) who wrote that last obit above, sage advice:
“You know the most famous obituary story, don't you?  About the rich businessman who was mistakenly obitted (yeah, I made that up, and isn't it brilliant???) and he, reading this premature obit, realized that he didn't want to be remembered for having the world's biggest dynamite factory so he funded philanthropic awards in his name and that's how Alfred Nobel is now mostly known for his Prize.  So maybe writing your own obit will reveal a life's mission, or not.  You never know.”

final analysis?  give some thought to writing your own obituary.  at least that way some semblance of how you’d like to be remembered will show up in the newspaper and the family's genealogy records.  how do YOU want to be remembered?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Record Store Day ....

who knew?!

i was looking at a new blog last night, about including musical references in your writing, that really struck a chord with me.  that got me to thinking about how i could incorporate music into my blog, like a jukebox of some sort.  then my eye happened across this little notice: April 20 is Record Store Day.

i love, love, love music ... all kinds of music.  but the music of the 60's is my favorite because it brings back so many memories of my life back then.  sock hops in high school ... remember those?  and all my years with the USO in Milwaukee, dancing up a storm with all those cute sailors from Great Lakes Naval Training Station.  even today, a man in a Navy uniform, especially bell bottoms, is still enough to get my heart palpitating.  or it could be my high blood pressure medicine.  nah, i'm sticking with the bell bottom theory.

anyhoo, because it's officially Record Store Day, i've added a play list at the bottom of the right-hand column.  i will do my best to rotate the playlist regularly.  feel free to nudge me if i don't.  but for today, my FIRST mobyte play list includes, in this order, 3 of my top favorite songs EVER, 3 more that rank up near the top, and 1 that i discovered within the last few years that has quickly earned favored status:
  1. Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens 
  2. Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler 
  3. Sunshine of Your Love by Cream (and which, whenever i hear it, i stop whatever i'm doing midstream and get up and dance!) 
  4. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding 
  5. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield 
  6. Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers 
  7. Lonely Avenue by Ray Charles 

Friday, April 19, 2013

the juggling act crashes and burns ....

don't you hate to admit defeat?!  i know i do.  i struggle along trying to balance everything even when i know i've scripted myself for failure.  in my last post i talked about all the online classes i had enrolled in suddenly coming together in a sort of cosmic convergence designed specifically to make me question my sanity.  which has been hanging by a thread of late, but that's another story for another day.   if i remember.  at my age, there's no guarantee.

so, here it is, two weeks after my last post and i finally have had to give up any pretense that i could actually do it all.  do YOU ever feel that way, like you CAN do it all, juggle all those balls in the air and manage your time so effectively that you get it all done and still have time at the end of the day to go out for drinks with your friends?  and then reality steps in and takes control and knocks you back to your senses?  kind of like life having a bit of a chuckle at your expense.

one of my classmates in my current blogging class recently wrote a post about spinning plates and multi-tasking.  she referred to that guy on the old Ed Sullivan show who would spin a bunch of plates and bowls on sticks. all at the same time.   he was a fan favorite, as i recall.  he was right up there with Topo Gigio for entertainment value on a Sunday night, right? 

her post struck a real chord with me, because i've been struggling with so many class commitments.  but i finally realized that i couldn't possibly do justice to them all, and so i narrowed my attention and energy to the two where i had actually kept up with the reading and some level of participation with the other members of the classes: blogging and journaling.  i feel good about this decision; it's created a more manageable project for me, and as a result i'm enjoying the classes more.

i'll pick up the photography class at a later date, probably in May when the other classes have completed.  the art projects workshop is one of those "work at your own pace" classes that will last through December, perfect for focusing on later.  and the research i did for this year's IFJM will be saved on my computer for April 2014 so that i can do justice to that project without all the other distractions.

i guess those words of wisdom from the White Rabbit were prophetic:  "You made it! Oh dear, it looks like you didn't make it after all, haha he-hoo!"

all together now ... haha he-hoo!!!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

i'm late / i'm late / for a very important date!

am i the only one that feels that way?!  never mind that i'm retired and have plenty of time on my hands.  but i always feel this time pressure when i go through a long spell of no activity and then suddenly find that i've over-committed myself.  it makes me want to grab clumps of my hair and run around like a crazed person, screaming "i can't do it, i can't do it, what have i done?!" ... at least i have the good sense to only do that in my head so that i at least maintain some semblance of normality to the untrained eye.

this sense of impending doom started this past weekend when i suddenly realized that all the fabulous online classes i signed up for back in February start this week.  yikes!  so the classes in journaling, blogging, photography, and art projects will all be competing for my time and energy. 

as everyone who knows me knows, i have a very limited supply of energy and stamina.  not to mention a short attention span when it comes to doing things i "should" be doing.  i'm easily distracted.  *grin*

add to the mix the fact that April is IFJM, which i've mentioned before.  i'm determined to participate this year, by hook or by crook.  i decided on a theme (more on that later) and have  already done most of the research, so i'm ready to make some journal pages, thank goodness.

when i take a deep breath, i actually realize that i can handle these online commitments.  but i do feel overwhelmed if i let myself dwell on what i'll need to do for each class.  i'll just have to remember these words of wisdom from the White Rabbit: "You made it! Oh dear, it looks like you didn't make it after all, haha he-hoo!" 

the alternative is to
go back to my bed
throw bedclothes over my head

apropos of nothing in particular: here's a little trivia gem i stumbled across when i was looking up the Alice in Wonderland quote i used for the title:

The English novelist Aldous Huxley worked with Walt Disney on early scripts for this project in late 1945. The original idea was for a cartoon version of Alice embedded in a flesh-and-blood episode from Lewis Carroll's life. Huxley's mother, Julia Arnold, was one of the little girls that Carroll used to enjoy photographing, and to whom he told the Alice stories. The project was close to Huxley's heart, but Disney found his work too intellectual, and it was not used. Huxley received no credit on the finished picture.

Monday, March 4, 2013

if it's March ....

it must be almost time for International Fake Journal Month!

holy cow, that creeps up on me every year.  last year, as it turns out, i did NOT participate.  see here for my thoughts on the 2012 IFJM.

Roz just posted a reminder about this year's IFJM so i need to get my thinking cap on NOW to formulate a plan for this year's fake journal.  two years ago it was a trip to Ireland, which was great fun.  last year i had in mind doing a sort of time travel/historical journal, a kind of "what if" exercise.  but that didn't really fit the IFJM parameters for creating journal entries in current time. 

i might do another travel journal, not sure where i'd visit though.  lots of choices, that's for sure.  or maybe i'll just "travel" right here in River City and fake write some fake journal entries.  ha!

the game is on.  i'll spend the next 3 weeks procrastinating thinking about topics, avoiding researching/googling, napping outlining my project.  the one thing i've learned from the previous years is that the pre-planning pretty much has to be done be early April in order to hit the ground running and create at least 6 entries to actively participate in the competition.  you'll know how successful i've been IF when you see my entries posted here on the blog.

cross your fingers and toes for me!!

more later