Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An obituary

Extinguished Candle by Flickr user diannna-art
I was recently asked to help write an obituary for a friend (more of a family member, really) that recently moved up in the grand scheme of things. I was both honored and...somewhat terrified. Would I be up to the task? Would I cover everything that should be covered? Would my writing of the obituary be clouded(?) by my own particular and unique view of her (and our friendship)? Would I forget to include one of her relatives? Would I offend someone by including or excluding things about her life? Would the family like what I wrote?

So I was glad to have a partner-in-writing. In truth, my partner carried more of the writing load, something I was (perhaps?) oddly OK with - playing a more supportive rather than lead role. I set about my task with a near-religious fervor that rather surprised me. Perhaps it was because I was helping write it in relative obscurity. Or perhaps it was because the bulk of the writing fell to someone else. Regardless, it felt good to put together lists of people, career highlights, quotes, words I thought described or characterized her, and remembrances of her from others. From this, I was able to craft out a few paragraphs that had me feeling pretty good about it and that I felt (hoped) honored her. My partner-in-writing also crafted some wonderful text (better than I could ever have written) and, after we pulled it all together and put the finishing touches it on it, sent it off to the family for review.

And that's when my nerves really set in. Did they like it? Did they think it honored her enough? Would they think differently of me? Did the few words we laid down do her life justice? I said a quick prayer of tranquility and was suddenly bathed in the knowledge that it would be OK. They would like it. It was honorable and complete. It was as it should be.

I'm sure there are all kinds of hints and how-tos out there for writing obituaries. But I didn't want to find them. I just wanted to write what came from my heart. And trust that the (my) truths and understandings of who she was would come across correctly and be honorable.

And the one truth that really struck me was this: her family (our family) wanted us to write about her life...because they trusted us. And loved us. And we loved her (and them). And that was all that mattered. And in the end, that was all that mattered. The words came and fell together. We shared. Were trusted and trusted in return. And loved. And are loved. And we honored all of that. And in doing so, honored her and her life. And it was as it should be.

So if you are ever asked to write an obituary for a friend, I would just offer these few snippets: it will be emotionally trying. It will consume you for a bit. You will doubt. But hear - and believe - this: trust in those that asked you. Trust in their confidence in you. Trust in your knowledge of and relationship with that person. And trust your heart. For if you do that, everything will certainly turn out as it should.


  1. Replies
    1. Cat's former major professor turned life-long friend, Deanna Kingston.

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