Friday, December 6, 2013

Obituaries to the Stars

Can you outlive the author of your obituary? How did so many well-written obituaries about Nelson Mandela go up so quickly, minutes after his death? It's not a conspiracy, many of them were written pre-need." For another celebrity death, the person had died so long after expected, that one of the authors of that New York Times obituary had already died by the time the story was published.

Nelson Mandela has lived so long and done so much in his life that he probably outlived several of the authors you are reading today.

I remember reading an interview with an author who got his start on the obituary column. He recounted doing an interview with an elderly actress who was suffering from a lingering illness. He didn't say why he was doing the interview, he just mentioned to her that they were doing some kind of "profile." Flattered, the actress asked the author when the story was coming out so she could tell her publicist.

I could only imagine her reaction when he told her that the piece was coming out after her death. I wonder if she asked for story approval. I also wonder if the author changed anything or added anything when the story was finally published. If he did, did she haunt him?

Five years ago, when my father died, we had an awkward moment in the mortuary when the funeral director attempted to write my father's obituary using their form speech. Even upside down, my mother noticed that the man was a terrible speller, and even worse at grammar. I vividly remember my mother taking the form away from the man, and writing it herself.

The obituary was beautiful, and heartfelt. It captured my father's life. Her words memorialized my father's life better than any stranger with a fill in the blanks form ever could.

I have been very impressed with the Mandela obituaries today. Not only in the man's life, but how the authors did their best to give life to someone after their death.

My goal is to outlive the person writing my obituary.

No comments:

Post a Comment