I don’t want to be morbid, but there’s really no other way to describe the subject of this essay. I now get nervous if I haven’t heard from a friend or relative in a while. Every time the phone rings at an off hour my adrenaline starts pumping. Or worse, I feel numb and vacant.
During the past three years, I have lost dear friends, my parents, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my kids’ godmother. You could say I’ve lost my daughter as well, as she has been so ill she has lived outside our home since 2019. I also miss my brother, as due to a family conflict we don’t often speak. Those are stories for another time – but sometimes they too feel like a death. It’s a heaviness of missing the very people that used to sit at my dinner table during the holidays, who dropped by just to hang out, or who called to talk about details of their day. The family has always meant the world to me, and that unit is shrinking. I know everyone experiences this eventually, and yes, I am feeling sorry for myself. I need to wallow a bit in all this unresolved grief.
Suffice it to say, the writing projects I have been called to do recently are the most challenging, emotional, and important work of my life. It has taken every ounce of my courage and skill to give them justice. Who would have thought the most impactful writing I would ever do is that of obituaries and eulogies? It’s a huge responsibility, but one I am grateful to do in trying to honor these loved ones. How do you adequately sum up the entirety of a life? A few paragraphs read at a memorial service seems trite. Too little, too late. Note to self: Say nice things to people while they’re still alive – don’t be shy! So much of their lives was never known to me. Can you imagine your parents as teenagers or young newlyweds? What were they like? Wouldn’t you have loved to hang out with them and have conversations about things they would never discuss with you as their child?
In an interesting way, these losses have encouraged me to try to do better in this life. I have this image of my closest family and friends observing me and asking “What the Hell is she doing?!” In both a creepy and comforting way, I’ll never feel quite alone again. I can’t adequately describe what I attribute this to, it just is. I also think about my own mortality a lot more. I want whoever is tasked with giving me my last farewell to be able to sum me up with good words like “loyal, kind, and tenacious as a bulldog.” Who wants a cookie-cutter departure where no one wants to get up to “say a few words” or worst of all, the tribute is given by a total stranger who begins with “I didn’t know [blank] well, but I would guess…?” I would not only be turning over in my grave, I would throttle them in the afterlife.
My dad said very emphatically that he wanted “Kick Some Ass” on his headstone. That is exactly how he approached life, for better or worse, and perfectly describes his personality. Honestly, I’m not sure they will allow us to do that, but I sure admire his gumption.
The best advice I can give here is to rise to the occasion and leave a legacy worth writing about. Show people your heart and act how you want to be remembered. And please…if I contact you and the first thing out of my mouth or text is “are you still alive?” don’t be offended. It’s because I care.