The Obituary that Wasn't: A Contrast
Last New Year’s Eve my cousin was found dead on his front porch by a neighbor. He’d died of complications of diabetes. It was shocking and sad, but not surprising. He’d been neglecting his care for quite some time and had, in fact, been released from the hospital barely a week before. My mother commented that it was a good thing his parents were not here to see how he died as they’d be devastated.
This was especially sad for me. My cousin, whom I’ll call “Rich,” was only a year older than I. His death is also the first one in my generation within the family. Plus, the day he died, New Year’s Eve, happens to be my birthday. In his dealings with me, he was always friendly, if a little dismissive.
He had his differences with his seven brothers and sisters, but they are by a measure any contentious bunch. His first marriage ended in a divorce. He had a few minor scrapes with the law. Little of this showed up in his obituary, or in the picture next to it, where he’s smiling but looks 10 years older than he was. But someone cared to put together a wonderful obituary for him, to arrange visitation and a memorial for him.
The night before my wedding in March, my alcoholic stepfather died. I hadn’t talked to him, much less seen him, in about 30 years so his death didn’t affect the wedding. I expressed my sympathy to my little sister, who is his daughter.
“I’m OK,” she assured me.
About a month earlier, she had called me in tears, having been told that her father—with whom she’d had nothing to do for 13 years—was not expected to live the weekend. She was buying an (expensive) one-way ticket and flying down from Fairbanks to southern California to see him one last time before he died. She was hoping to see me and meet my (then) fiancé while she was down here. I said of course, that I was looking forward to seeing her, but not to expect me to go to the hospital with her. That got the intended laugh.
The man who wasn’t supposed to live through the weekend was well enough to make himself breakfast the next Monday. Oh, praise Jesus it must be a miracle. Or maybe something more prosaic, like the exaggerations of the daughters from her father’s first marriage, who were themselves on their way back home to the East coast while at the same time busy convincing my little sister the grim reaper was sharpening up his scythe, deserting their dear old dad at his, ahem, last hour.
Another sister, also a daughter of the alcoholic stepfather, long ago made up her mind that there would be no deathbed reconciliation. He and his present wife kicked her out of the house when they found out she was dating a woman. Furthermore, they refused to pay for her college while she was going down “that road.” My sister doesn’t have a college degree, but she’s with the same woman, some 25 years later. The final break came when her father’s present wife showed up at her work one day telling her that her father had broken his leg at work and had a stroke. She made a scene in front of my sister’s coworkers, saying he was near death and this might be the last time she could see him. Wouldn’t she come? No. Years later, the silly woman tried to friend her on Facebook. My sister blocked her.
The night before my wedding, when my whole family was in town for the occasion, the same silly woman called my youngest sister to tell her her father had died. The story (I cannot vouch for its accuracy) is that he was driving, possibly to a doctor’s appointment, and had a heart attack. He pulled over and died.
My littlest sister asked about a memorial.
“What memorial?” his wife said. “He didn’t have any friends.”
The room was quiet for a while once the news broke, no one wanting to hurt anyone else’s feelings. Then my mother said, “Oh, he’s dead? Well, that’s that.”
Knowing that she belonged to a church, I checked the paper for weeks to see if his wife had at least an obituary placed for him. I found none. His daughters left notes on their Facebook pages (yes, I got nosy) about losing their father, but nothing about a funeral, and I could find no obituary notice anywhere. I contrast that with the one written for my cousin, who certainly had his differences with his family.
Well, that’s that.
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/raven-cemetery-cross-blue-sky-553196/ by elianemey
Gossamer wrote on April 27, 2015, 5:33 PM
I was just thinking, a few days ago that, if my ex-wife died, I wouldn't go to her funeral - not even to make sure she wasn't faking it (she is one of the biggest liars I have ever had the misfortune to meet). I long ago rejected her Facebook friend request too. How can you be friends (even online) with someone who did their best to try to destroy your life?
msiduri wrote on April 27, 2015, 5:40 PM
Exactly. There is a pressure, I think, to forgive. But why bother with someone so destructive and manipulative? I'm sorry your ex-wife was so destructive.
wolfgirl569 wrote on April 27, 2015, 10:46 PM
I know a couple of people whose funerals I would go to, just to make sure they were truly dead.
peachpurple wrote on April 28, 2015, 2:45 AM
so sad, at least family members should be the one putting up the obituary, it is essential for us chinese
MegL wrote on April 28, 2015, 3:32 AM
Well, that's that indeed! It's always a pity when someone dies without being reconciled but it is THEIR loss not yours. Sometimes, it is best to be sorry for the loss of a human being but no need to regret a relationship that never was.
msiduri wrote on April 28, 2015, 7:17 AM
I have to confess, knowing how manipulative these people are, I had a few moments when I doubted he was really dead.
msiduri wrote on April 28, 2015, 7:21 AM
That's what I couldn't get over. Not his wife, nor the daughters by his first marriage could be bothered to write an obituary, or pay someone to write an obituary, for him, despite the hue and cry they made. I could write one, but no one would like it. I'd mention things like how he never had a job that he didn't get fire from, how he beat us with a belt, how he didn't think he'd contract cirrhosis of the liver because he always ate when he drank and things of that sort. Not generally accepted obituary material.
msiduri wrote on April 28, 2015, 7:24 AM
I'm certainly not in mourning, but I can't be happy at the miserable death of a fellow human being, regardless of how miserable a human being he was. He'd long since ceased to be a part of my life, or even a ghost that I argued with. Thirty years is a long time.
MegL wrote on April 28, 2015, 7:43 AM
They possibly can't think of anything different from that either, so maybe better off with no obituary..
msiduri wrote on April 28, 2015, 8:08 AM
It might serve as a cautionary tale: parents don't be a jerk to you kids, particularly if they become writers, or this is what they'll write about you. But I think you're right, saying nothing is better.
CalmGemini wrote on April 29, 2015, 1:00 AM
Now that you have collected all your scattered thoughts and feelings from the beginning of this year till date,you should feel a little relieved.Getting them off your chest,so to speak.Of course,the sadness will always be there.
msiduri wrote on April 29, 2015, 8:03 AM
I do. I am still sad about my cousin, gone before his time. He should have taken better care of himself. I think back to my mother's comment about how devastated his parents would be if they were still alive. I'm sad that my alcoholic stepfather led such a destructive life. Sad that he hurt so many people. But at his death I can only feel, well, relief.
Thanks for your kind words. As always.