Why don’t we strive for accuracy in the eulogy?

I think perhaps I’ll do a draft of my own obituary. After all, who knows me better than me?

It also seems rather thoughtless to make those close to me, at one of the worst times of their lives, try to craft a coherent portrait of their loved one. Really, you don’t do your best work under those circumstances.

Besides, I want people to know what killed me: I’m always curious about other people, so the least I can do is provide my information. I’d like it to be something snappy, as well; none of that mournful, bland language that populates so many obits these days.

It is a style of writing of which I am not particularly fond; in plain language, too much of it is just boring. When did we begin the habit of never speaking ill of the dead? The earliest version of the thought that I know is in Latin: “Nisi Nil Bonum Norturibus”.

Does it go back farther? Are we afraid of spirits wreaking revenge for our lack of respect? That feels a lot more likely.

I’m not suggesting we have a slam-fest once someone is gone, but wouldn’t  mentioning a few of the less-perfect attributes help to ease the pain?

I am not always nice, as we may have noticed. My skill with words, such as it is, can occasionally be honed a bit sharper than courtesy allows.

Why don’t we strive for accuracy amid the eulogy? It used to be that there were code words in obituaries: “a short illness” meant suicide in most cases. “A lively wit” was often a euphemism for mean. I’m glad that we have left most of that behind.

Of course, if Brunhilda really was the salt of the earth, and went out of her way to be kind and generous to everyone, we should say so, but there should be a little more truth in advertising in my opinion. I think sometimes the news stories that accompany an unexpected death are more accurate, and hence more interesting than the write up on the later pages.

Self-obits on video are my idea of the way to go, as long as they don’t come out like a spy movie, with allusions to dark, nefarious plots by others. After I’m dead, I expect it will be difficult to tell where truth leaves off and paranoia and delusion begin.

I want to be sure that all the friends who aided me through this vale of tears get credit for it. “She is survived by her good friends, blank and blank, as well as her extensive library, her internet connection and Simcha, Sugi, Django, Zoe, and Devi Ajaya her feline family.” Admit it. Some of our pets are better friends than some of our human “friends” (See, there's that creeping sarcasm I mentioned previously).

How about “Phyllis finally deserted this plane of existence on the 21th of this month, and went in search of new adventures. She was assisted by an unexpectedly virulent strain of bubonic plague, which she picked upon her recent rip to the slums of Tierra del Fuego.”

Her friends and relations sincerely hope that good deeds are rewarded after death, and that Mark Antony was wrong when he spoke of all the good being interred with the bones. Her survivors all wish her a productive journey to her next incarnation, although they doubt that her will, leaving everything to herself in her next life, will be enforceable.

She was a very good writer and a passable jewelry designer, in addition to being a veritable fount of trivial information. Her desire to make the world a better place was occasionally obstreperous, but nonetheless well-intentioned.”

Did you know that in 1962, an acquaintance of mine promised to write a Bach-style double fugue when I died? “Steffan, where are you now? Pay up!”

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