I read the obituary page almost every morning. It's not that I'm maudlin, I just find people's lives interesting. Now, not all obituaries are created equal. There are the "just the facts" obits, and then there are the "He was a titan of industry and won lots of awards and served on lots of boards and committees" obits, lengthy to be sure, but not actually revealing.
This morning I read of the best obituaries I've ever come across, and I wanted to share part of it with you:
Born on a farm in
Lincoln, AL, one of nine children, she picked cotton, pulled fodder
& stripped sorghum. Being chosen as housekeeper & nanny for an
Aunt in town afforded her the ability to leave the country, finish
school and meet the love of her life, JB. He was the local
iceman and Uncle Richie let the ice melt so "Fan" could see JB more
often. They married in '38 and moved to Florida in '41, where JB's
entrepreneurial spirit blossomed… she worked beside him in all of his
endeavors from a small gas station, an orange grove, installing jalousie
windows and finally, becoming one of the first licensed swimming pool
builders in Florida. She was proud to have been born during the Great
Depression and learned not to waste anything. From an early age she
would pull threads from flour sacks and use those to sew little doll
clothes. Her husband's success was not wasted on her as she appreciated
every different color and type of fabric she was able to buy… She used
all that creativity to make a good home and raise her children… one in
each of 3 different decades. Sewing formal dresses and skating skirts in
the 50's, making waterski long johns and cooking burgers in the 60's
and then rows of ruffles which turned into mod bell bottom pants for her
last little "surprise". This is the way she showed her love, by making
and doing things for others, from clothes she made for the Russell home,
the thousands of "bone" shaped pillows and knitted preemie hats during
her volunteer days at Florida Hospital, and the countless quilts and
crafts and collectibles she shared.
There are so many details here I love. She pulled fodder and stripped sorghum, she pulled threads from flour sacks to sew doll clothes. An aunt "chose" her to work as her housekeeper and nanny in town. There's a novel in that line alone! Maybe Fan was the poor relation, and her aunt deigned to give her work. Maybe she slept in the corner of the kitchen and was up before dawn stoking the woodstove. Did she miss her eight brothers and sisters? Or was she happy to be done with picking cotton?
Bone-shape pillows! Sorghum! Jalousie windows! Formal dresses and skating skirts! This obituary should be used to teach writing everywhere. It's all in the details, people. I read this obit and had a sense of who "Fan" was and how she lived. By the end I felt like I knew her.
Now I'm wondering who wrote this obituary. Was it one of Fan's children? Or was it Fan herself? I'd vote for one of her children, because there's appreciation in every line. Which leads me to wonder ... what will my children remember about me? I hope it's not the mess or the crankiness, but rather banana pudding and trips to the beach, the handknit socks and the quilts and the time I grew wheat in the backyard.
I hope this isn't too morbid. I think a good obituary makes you appreciate a life well-lived, and I was glad that this morning I got to know Fan just a little bit. May she rest in peace.
58 minutes ago