As a kid, I remember my parents scanning (okay, they were reading) the obituaries listed in the newspaper. I didn’t think it odd as it was something they always did and was, in my child’s mind, “normal”.
When I inquired as to why they did it, they responded with a jocular, “just making sure we’re still alive” and that was that. I, too, am a scanner/reader of death notices. Have been for as long as I can recall. I’ve even been known to check them online. Sounds creepy when I see it written, but I assure you, it is not.
That being said, I am immersed in this habit deeply enough to have a system. First I check the town in which I live, then my hometown and, finally, I scan for Jewish names. More often than not, I happen upon a familiar one: usually a parent or grandparent of a friend. Sometimes I have heard of the passing and seek out the announcement for the pertinent information, but more often than not, I just peruse without purpose. I’m not sure what I am looking for but assume it is my love of a good story that keeps me coming back for more. Many (most, actually) stick to the basics and tell very little by way of a story but do serve to confirm that the name I am reading does indeed relate to someone in my world. I’ve seen them depressingly brief and overwhelmingly detailed. None, however, has captured my interest as did this one:
Interestingly, Elisabeth R. Daniels did not hail from either of “my” towns, nor was she Jewish. I’ve no recollection as to what made me read her obituary, but I did and, as you can see, went so far as to tear it out and save it (admission: it was on my fridge for a few days). It is, without competition, the Best. Obituary. Ever.
We all hope to leave some sort of mark on the world, some kind of legacy which will serve to define us years after we are gone. I cannot speak for the masses, but would venture a guess that most (all) people hope that theirs is a positive, honest (assuming the two are not mutually exclusive) and, if we are really lucky, meaningful one. We were kind, or philanthropic, or funny or a trailblazer of some sort. Or perhaps we flew under the radar and made little impact other than to live quietly and not bother anyone. Most (all) of us would prefer not to be remembered for the time we behaved like an asshole or forgot to filter our words. Elisabeth was true to herself (and, so too, apparently, were her mother Sally and sister Dinah). I cannot help thinking that she sanctioned (and maybe even penned) the delightfully honest memorializing of herself. Talk about going out on your own terms. Have at it, Ms. Daniels!
Being honest with ourselves and knowing who we are can be totally awesome or can suck big time: sometimes all in the same day. Digging deep and owning the good, the bad and the ugly ain’t easy, but is it freeing, for sure.
I’ve always admired (envied maybe) the honesty with which Jess has lived her life. Like Elisabeth, she is a “unique creation” and I hope that (many, many, many) years down the road, when her legacy is being written it will be done so with the same love that Elisabeth’s has been.
I hope the same for Harrison. And, frankly, for me.