Obituaries, the last opportunity for notariety

Below is a repost from last year. It’s one of my favorites although freshly pressed chose something totally different. Think of it as a summer rerun while I turn the beloved husband’s colonoscopy into a PG post.

A classmate of mine died recently. I hadn’t seen her since we graduated from high school but when I saw her picture in the obituary column, I was stunned. Her family had chosen her graduation picture (class of ’64) to publish. It was the same picture that was in the yearbook. She was a 64-year-old woman but the picture was taken when she was 17 years old. Her hair was very 1960s and so were her clothes. The picture looked like it came from a different century. (Oh, wait, it did!) I often wonder why people do that. Was there no recent photo…one taken within the last 45 years?

This wasn’t the first one though. Two years ago, another classmate died and her family also used her graduation photograph.

You often see a 90-year-old man in the obits with his military picture from when he was 22 years old…or maybe a 90-year-old woman with a 1940-ish pompadour hairstyle that was probably her engagement photo. If you only knew them when they were older, how would you recognize them?

The other thing I notice in obituaries is that people put in all kinds of things or accomplishments that really aren’t relevant or maybe aren’t even accomplishments. Here are some examples of octogenarian obituaries:

  • Joe Doe received three badges when he was in the boy scouts.
  • Susie Silly was the star butterfly of her second grade play.
  • Jackie Dodo was a straight A student until she reached high school when her attention was diverted to boys and booze. (Oops, I did alter that a bit.)
  • Eighty-five year old Alma Gogetter was the captain of her junior varsity cheerleading squad. Yay team!

Then there are the love declarations.

  • Bonnie Boop was loved by all who knew her (really???).
  • She will be missed by scores of friends (how many are a score??).

Pondering on this I gave the beloved husband some specifics for my obituary.

  • He is to use my second grade school photo. No one will recognize me in my cool page-boy.
  • He is to include the notations made by the nuns on all of my grade school report cards. (Most were lovely except for Sister Catalda who said I talked too much.)
  • He is to include the fact that I was the captain of my intramural basketball team when I was in tenth grade. It was an elected position and I let everyone do what they wanted, so they elected me! (Maybe I should run for president??)
  • In the survivors section I want him to include not only my surviving pets but also those that have gone before me. It will take a lot of space considering he will need to go all the way back to my first canary, followed by dogs and cats and more canaries. After all, they were very dear to me.

That obituary should bring a smile to everyone or the ensuing party will. Next I will work on my epitaph.


Photo by Tabea C via Flickr

22 thoughts on “Obituaries, the last opportunity for notariety

  1. Yeah, I guess I understand the whole military picture thing or graduation picture thing. Because the picture (at least to me) in the newspaper is not so much for the means of recognizing the person as it is a celebration of something that person might have been proud of? Enjoyed? I don’t know. I guess if I’m looking at an obituary and I don’t recognize their name or family names, I don’t know them, and a current picture wouldn’t make me recognize them any more. I actually don’t think any picture needs to be in the obit. The visitation or funeral is the place to post a bunch of pictures, past and recent.

    I agree with writing your own obituary. Why not? And have fun with it! I LOVE your ideas. And yes, I want the “preceded in death” thing to include my beloved pets. I’ll also pick and choose which family members I want mentioned. Feels good to be in control.

    In my hometown newspaper, you get the funeral home generic obit published free, but if you want to write your own, it costs money. I get such a kick out of how the bereaved write. Every Sorry-Son-of-a-B**ch is raised up in heavenly bliss and glory! Too funny. 😉

    Anyway, thanks for your very fun look into this subject. Makes one think…


  2. We put our dog on Christmas cards, why not obits? I have, a bit morbidly, written mine ( you never know,) and have included a section on how if my husband remarries I will haunt him forever.


  3. Loved your special requests. Made me laugh. I told my hubby I want a funeral like “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Bernie (the victim of a mob hit) was stood up in the corner at a party with a drink. I also requested an Irish wake, and a ticker-tape parade. I assume Dave’s working hard on this. 🙂


  4. I remember writing things in my Mom’s obituary that some people probably thought was odd, or perhaps a bit out-of-place. Like naming some of her favorite pets. Now I feel a little bit better about having done that . And I chose a picture when she was still vibrant and mobile, from her early 70’s. My sister wanted to go with her wedding photo. Problem was, which wedding?

    This made me smile. Thanks for the happy face on a Friday night. Enjoy your weekend!


    • I really do love when they list the pets among the survivors. It makes it real. When my mother died, we didn’t use a picture for the obit but I needed to give the funeral home a picture so they could “make her up” to look like herself. She had been sick a couple of months before she died and she had aged. I was only able to give them a picture that was 20 years old because my mother did not like her picture taken. She always thought the photographic process did mystical things that made her look old. Well, the woman in the coffin did not look like my mother but in the long run, that helped me maintain composure throughout the process. Funerals are a funny thing. I always hated them but when my mother died, I was really touched by the people who came out to support us and my feelings on the subject changed.


      • My Mom was survived by us, yes, but more importantly by her two German Shepherds, Baron and Duke. We even had the dogsled she was training them on next to the altar in church. Yup. Funerals are weird, it’s true, but I have lost enough people in my life to understand the value. Like you, I am touched by the outpouring of support that people give during this horrible time.

        And, just a side note: both dogs died within a few months after my Mom’s death. They were only 7 years old. The Vet was kind enough to do an autopsy on his own because he couldn’t believe it – they were both perfectly healthy. Without any previous illness or symptoms, he found they both died of what can only be described as broken hearts. They had enlarged hearts that burst. Strange. Thought you’d just find that interesting.


  5. Love it! I have often wondered about why 90 year old people have their WW II service pictures and outfits from swing dance parties!


  6. This was good, and I’m glad I’m not alone!
    I’ve already asked my children to totally fictionalize my obit, making sure that they include the fact that I didn’t so much die, as I simply decided to reincarnate myself as cat, so that I could finally just lay around all day in a pissy fashion without everyone asking me all the time what was wrong.


  7. My husband’s Aunt Alyce wrote her own obituary. She worked on it for years. She played professional women’s basketball in the thirties and was also a successful tennis player. It must have meant the world to her, since it took up about two columns. (She also planned the menu for the funeral repast… with had one whole table of shrimp cocktail….”You can never have too much shrimp” was her motto.)


  8. This is so true! My sister-in-law (husband’s sister) recently passed away and her sisters used the high school picture for her memorial. I was not the only one present asking ..”who’s that?” But, worse than that were the pity comments of ..”Oh, she had so much promise back then.” Knowing her, she would have died all over again listening to those statements. She was an alcoholic and it got the best of her in the end…but the dash in between was her life and she lived it according to her rules and honestly, it wasn’t that bad.
    I love the rules you layed out for your husband…especially listing all the pets…I am still laughing!


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