Friday, March 15, 2013

In Memoriam

Lately I’ve been reading the death notices in the back of the Washington Post’s Metro section. Morbid? Well, perhaps, but interesting, too.

Death notices are paid for, unlike obituaries that are considered news by the paper, and generally written as such by lower level reporters. The notices are written in tiny type, measure a couple of inches across by three-or-so inches long. They almost always feature a small black and white photo of the deceased, and most of these are not flattering. In fact, many look as if someone at the funeral home arranged a smile and opened the eyes of the recently passed person, and then took a photo.  The accompanying prose is always laudatory. A typical death notice might read: “Cornelius Squishblossom, beloved husband of Cora, father of sons Lee and Ray and of daughter Leona; grandfather of seven, and great-grandfather of 12, went to join the Lord and meet his Maker Tuesday morning. Mr. Squishblossom was active in the Elks, Lions, Moose, Otters and Rotarians, and delighted in wearing a red tasseled fez while driving a tiny car in Memorial Day parades. He will be remembered for his stewardship of the local library and his chairing of the community’s ‘Ban All Those Books’ campaign…”  

Personally, I think the notices should skip all the codswallop and instead tell the truth. “Mr. Squishbossom was disliked by his current wife, detested by his ex-wife, and looked down upon by his neighbors for not maintaining his weed-infested yard. Business associates cited his multiple censures for inappropriate behavior in the office.  His three children have moved to Canada, Laos and Montenegro, assumedly to put as much distance as possible between he and themselves. It is doubtful that they will attend the service in his honor, to be held at the Church of St. Exon at 11 a.m. tomorrow. In fact, Mr. Squishblossom’s survivors are at this very moment hosting a private party at Mac’s Bar & Grill to give thanks for his passing.”

For me, when it’s my time, I’d like a photo of someone other than myself to be displayed. If this tiny appearance is to be my last one, let me look better than I do in real life and leave others with the thought that, “Yes, we didn’t notice it so much when he was with us, but he does look remarkably like Al Pacino, except taller and with a bigger jaw.”

Also, I’d like there to be some fun facts about me. “He was the founder of the Pants for Pets movement, an offshoot of the now defunct Animal Decency League, which strived to clothe naked animals.”  And since my accomplishments have not quite matched my expectations, I think it would be OK to embroider the truth a bit. “Mr. Sagnier, who was distantly related to the Marquis de Lafayette and to the Count of Monte Cristo, wrote a series of best-selling novels set in Byelorussia, notably The Bully of the Balkans, a fictionalized account of the life of Nikola Botev, who rose from being a simple beet farmer to fame as a bloodthirsty warlord.”  Either that, or I would like to be ascribed authorship of the work of others. I will settle for John Updike’s Rabbit tetralogy although if this is already taken, you can give me any of Jean-Paul Sartre’s longer works since no one reads them anyway.

Somewhere in the announcement, I would like it to read, “He was wise enough not to have children or grandchildren, though he has maintained cordial if distant relations with a slew of nephews.

Lastly, I would like the notice to be like one of those novelty birthday cards that when you open up plays a little tune. In my case, it would be a song I wrote and recorded appropriately titled Say Goodnight.  It’s available on iTune for the ridiculously low price of 99¢ and you should download it to honor my memory.





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