Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Big Disappointment

One of my regular Internet stops is at Salon where Garrison Keillor writes a weekly column. Even if at first it seems to be about nothing, it is actually always about something, and that something is typically insightful.

This week, he writes about obituaries and how we shouldn't bother living so that ours is significant because it's likely to be a big disappointment. You can read it here.

I have a friend or two who have tried to write their obituaries in advance because they heard it was a cathartic experience—helps you take stock in yourself now, fix things that need fixing or take pride in things that are praise worthy before it's too late to do anything about it.

I haven't tried to do that myself because I find it hard to think about my obituary without thinking of myself as being dead, and I'd rather not have that image in my head. I suppose someone will do a write-up with the usual stuff about where I lived and who I married and who has survived me. I'm not much of a joiner, so there aren't any club memberships to mention, but I do like to stay busy. Maybe somebody will write that I showed up late in life to do the things I really enjoy, like horn playing and writing for the public, and it's a shame I didn't start sooner so that I didn't end up so far behind. Oh well.

I've mentioned this before, but my favorite Anne Lamott quote comes from her description of how she has learned to pray. At first, she was waking up in the morning and saying "Please, please, please," and then she would go to bed saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you." But she eventually learned to wake up and say "Whatever," and she went to bed saying, "Oh well."

I've decided that should be my obituary. "Oh well." That may sound dismal, but I think it's really more a sign of contentment, like saying, "I did what I could, and it was enough. And if it wasn't, I guess it'll have to be now."

Or I could just quote a pal who wisely said, "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy." I think he borrowed that from W. C. Fields whose tombstone reads, "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."


Pearl said...

I'm going to use that lobotomy line...


dive said...

Robyn I hope it's a very, very long time indeed before you have to give any thought to your obituary, but it's going to be a doozy; packed with superlatives about your writing, your journalism, your horn playing, your charity and volunteer work, your art, your crafts … oh, so many facets and wonderful skills before they even start on your work and your beautiful daughters.

Rich said...

Some people live just to read the obits. We used to call em the Irish sports page here in Boston but that's changing. I find it odd that some newspapers descrobe the deceased by what they did for work. Like "Joe Blow - was night watchman for such and such a company". That's not how I would like to be remembered. I think having something comical on your stone is a good idea. hmmmmm some food for thought.