Obituaries are news article that report the recent death of a person that typically accounts for the person’s life, family members, glowing tributes , noteworthy achievements and information about an upcoming funeral service.
It could be said that the main purpose of an obituary is to honour and even aggrandize the life of the deceased. They typically subtly guide human behaviour as how to behave in life and how to be favourably remembered.
Three coincidental matters relating to obituaries came to my attention yesterday.
One was a review of the New York Times setting comprehensive and glowing life tributes of various socialites and significant individuals.
The second was an obituary of an elderly man who died in Texas, whose daughter and family wrote a vitriolic obituary stating amongst other things that he lived “much longer than he deserved”;
The third was a forthcoming movie entitled “The Last Word”, starring Shirley MacClain who as a controlling businesswoman hires a journalist to pre-write her obituary, only to find that the typical comment offered by her “friends” and associates is that they hope she dies soon. This results in a life altering experience for Ms. MacLain’s character.
Most of us are familiar with what an obituary is and have probably seen or even written a “typical” obituary in local newspapers as well as perhaps reviewed the more refined,expensive and extensive obituaries that appear in publications such as the New York Times. Many magazines such as MacLeans or the Economist publish one full page obituary each week typically reflecting on the subject’s life and influence on world history. It is not uncommon for major world figures, heroes, entertainers, and such to have “pre written” obituaries for quick publication in the event of that person’s demise.
In my experience as an estate litigation lawyer I frequently ask my clients to bring in the obituary as it is common for me to note that they are not always “accurate” in that often certain members of the family are not mentioned at all or some other hurtful comment is made or omitted about them.
The vitriolic Texan obituary was so newsworthy that it made international news for stating such things as ” his hobbies included being abusive to his family, expediting trips to heaven for the beloved family pets, his life serve no obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or service the community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides sarcasm.
Not content to stop there, the writer further stated that there would be no funeral service, no prayers for eternal peace and no apologizes to the family he tortured.
His remains would be cremated and kept in the barn until the family donkey’s wood shavings run out. His passing proved that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.
The writer stated that the deceased appreciated honesty and that it would have been offensive to portray him dishonestly.