An unusual topic, I know. I am fascinated by obituaries. Weird but true. I feel compelled to read them whenever they pass before my eyes. You can tell so much about a person’s life and their relationships by their obituary. Is the obit long? Does it resemble a grocery list of their life’s accomplishments? Does it list family members all the way down to great-great children and how the deceased will be missed by all?

Some people touch many lives in wonderful, uplifting ways and are surrounded by friends and family. These are the people who generously gave themselves to others, the beloved MeeMaws, Grandpas, mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends who always had a sympathetic ear and time to listen.

Then there are the short, terse obituaries listing little more than date of birth and date of death. I have to wonder what their lives were like. Did they alienate everyone who might have cared? Or did they outlive everyone who cared? (not usually, judging by their ages at time of death) I suspect these are the people we label as a “bitch” or a “bastard” while they are alive, the people who don’t give a crap about anyone else and live their lives accordingly. One such acquaintance of mine died recently, alone and in pain. He had many opportunities during his life to change that outcome but drove off everyone who cared about him with his hateful, spiteful tongue and reckless actions. He reaped what he sowed.

Sometimes I am surprised by an obituary, as when I read about a man I thought I knew. Turned out everything I had been told about him (by his brother) was a lie. He was not the ignorant plodder I had been led to believe he was. He was actually quite intelligent, athletic, and loving. I regret that I never had the chance to learn the truth until after he died. I believe I would have liked him very much, instead I allowed myself to be alienated because I didn’t understand the situation. Lesson: Don’t believe others’ opinions about anybody. Find out for myself. 

I am uplifted and filled with awe by the things people accomplish and dedicate their lives to. These are often the “laundry list of accomplishment” obits and can be a bit much sometimes, but Holy Crap! there are some mighty high achievers out there. Interestingly–at least to me–these people are not looked upon with the same love and affection as the beloved MeeMaws and Grandpas of the world, but they are admired and their families are usually proud of them.

I lost an old friend last year who wrote his own obituary before he passed after nearly two decades of fighting a rare cancer. He was someone I deeply admired for his courage and his wit and his outlook on life. He went after what he wanted with unfettered gusto and lived his life to the absolute fullest in a way most people don’t even dare dream of–even after allowing the medical community to conduct experimental treatments on him for his cancer, treatments that eventually helped others. My life is richer for knowing him.

Some obits make me laugh and I’m going to end this post with one I love.

Jacob “Jake” Davis Hill, III, 78, died peacefully June 15, 2018, at his home in Portland, surrounded by his son and a three-month supply of survivalist provisions immediately rendered moot upon his passing.

While some march to different drummers, Jake marched to a different band entirely. Beloved by many for his sharp wit, intriguing political views, and contrarian nature, he did not suffer fools gladly, particularly those questioning his sharp wit, intriguing political views, and contrarian nature. Few doubted his abundant generosity, however, or his lifelong compassion for the needy and suffering. Jake was unapologetically sui generis.

At Jake’s request there will be no funeral. 

For those of you who don’t know, “sui generis” means unique. This was a unique obit for an obviously unique man and I loved it enough to keep it. I think this might be the most honest obituary I have ever read. I think of this and the obits of people I knew when I need to be reminded that others seldom see more than a small part of our whole and an obituary is most often a reflection of what’s important to the person writing it–not what’s important to the deceased unless they wrote their own.

Food for thought.