A sad honor

Owls mark the sign. It may feel like the dead of winter, but phrenology says spring is on the way.

Where I live in the Texas, the sun’s intensity pinkens our cheeks and the backs of our necks and the first hint of green kisses a couple trees in the park. Even in the city, signs of spring, of rebirth, sneak onto the scene.

Meanwhile, some aspects of spring passes by my family. Instead, we keep our eye on a looming winter, adjusting to new health challenges, saying quiet, gradual goodbyes, thankful for every moment we are gifted fully aware we could lose our loved ones at any time. 

My dad was transitioned to hospice care after Christmas. My mom and I have discussed this step for months, so I wasn’t surprised. Just saddened. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to say goodbye. I did not know you start grieving before death. At any rate, the flu and pneumonia knocked down my dad hard at Christmas, but with antibiotics and being home and motivated to go to breakfast with his friends, he is recovering far more than any of us expected. He still has a terminal diagnosis. He is still dying. Yet we’ve received a reprieve. Death postponed this visit. How long is the reprieve? That is the question.

In all of this, my writing skills have received new assignments; assignments I did not expect and really don’t want. I’ve been asked to write two obituaries.

When I was in college, I was required to take newswriting classes. I swore to myself I would never work at a newspaper. Reporters are poorly paid, disrespected and are always on the job. No thank you.

Ironically, writing our classmates’ obituaries was one of our first assignments. We learned interviewing and writing skills. Writing obituaries is harder than it looks, even when you follow the pattern set by a particular newspaper. It’s tedious, but easy enough to gather names, birthdays, family names, dates, places. It’s harder to succinctly write about who the person was and what made him or her special. It must be excruciating for family members under the stress of a sudden or traumatic death.

I started with my uncle’s obituary. I’ve known him all my life as a peripheral person. He was fun, full of adventure. My favorite memory is him showing up at my mom’s house on his snowmobile one winter when I happened to be visiting with my small children. I hadn’t been on a snowmobile since I was a teen. He took me for a ride through the pristine woods where I grew up, allowing me to see them as I never had. It was wonderful. 

I thought writing a short document of his life would be easy, especially when my aunt and mom provided all the information. All I had to do was organize it per the newspaper style and write sentences. It took me three days. I am thankful there wasn’t a tight deadline with a funeral looming. I hope he and my aunt are happy with it. It barely scratches the surface.

Now to write my dad’s. I’m not looking forward to it. I asked my mom what she wanted me to put for his expiration date. Death dates are tricky on obituaries for people not yet deceased. I put a date that seemed unreasonably optimistic for my uncle. My mom said she wants my dad’s expiration date to be after hers. I think Feb. 14, 2124, sounds good. I might be ready by then too.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.