By BRYAN GRAY
The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of the Davis Clipper.
A 26-year old woman asked me last week to review, and if needed, rewrite her “personal statement” resume required for graduate school. The “facts” of her life, she said, were boring; she wanted to highlight her “experiences” and distinguish herself from other applicants.
“I understand what you want,” I said. “It’s the same for obituaries.”
Yes, the obituary, the fascinating end-of-life statement that, in a few hundred words, attempts to recap and explain often extraordinary lives. Sometimes the deceased gets to pick the words and experiences. Usually, however, it’s the surviving family members who try and capture the essence and spirit of a husband-father-brother-sister-mother. In obituaries, there is no such thing as average, unlived, or unappreciated lives.
Obituaries aren’t morbid. They are glimpses into what makes all of us humans, worthy of dignity, respect and delight.
In the past week, for instance, I have chuckled with the lady whose perfect day started with “a large Diet Coke” and enjoyed “beating her sons at tennis and telling everyone how smart her grandchildren have become.”
Or how about the woman whose chief pride was “never having received a traffic ticket” during 85 years of life, or the lady who loved to “pull the handle” at Wendover and was the extended family’s “official gravy maker” at Thanksgiving.
The obituaries are filled with achievements. One man is noted for “flipping pancakes for the local Lion’s Club for over the past 20 years.” A woman enjoyed working in her garden “growing blue ribbon banana squash” while another was proud of her award-winning yard and its 35 groomed rose bushes. Many others note their military service, including a man who traveled to Washington D.C., where his Japanese-American combat unit received the Congressional Gold Medal as “the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in U.S. military history.” (All he wanted on his tombstone were the words “Thank You America”)
Obituaries offer a few of our passions. In one woman’s case, it was her work with “canines, dolphins, sea otters, manatees, whales, and even Koko and Mike, the sign-language gorillas.” The family of another lady predicted she would be greeted in heaven by a menagerie of “dogs, rabbits, hamsters, mice, frogs, snakes, and a parakeet.”
There is nothing mundane about lives. A former Utah legislator who died after heart surgery was noted as being “the champion for the unborn, instrumental in the passing of Utah’s anti-abortion law and adoption statutes.” Another man sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but later moved to Seattle where he and his male partner were united in marriage following voter approval of gay marriage in Washington State.
Lives Р fascinating lives. Upon her passing, an 88-year old woman asked mourners to “send flowers Р no need for donations since I took care of that throughout my life, and flowers are much prettier.” And there’s the woman who had a funeral service at an LDS ward house and, the next day a funeral mass at a Catholic church. And the man who “loved to talk to strangers in line at Disneyland rides.” And the man whose first job was selling popcorn at Utah Jazz games.
The life stories are published daily in our newspapers. A 92-year old woman wrote, “I was born, I played, I loved, I cared, and I called it a day.”
And what a day they all had.