The final account down!
The Head Groundskeeper’s wife, the Lovely Lisa, wants your favorite bloggeur to write his obituary.
We prefer to attach a benign interpretation to her demand but we’re trying to be extra special nice to the dear woman, just the same. Why, just the other day, we shared the extra Chicago hot dog with our sweetpea. Her portion may have been a smidgeon smaller, but who puts a tape measure on generosity?
Never hurts to remind the spouse of your good deeds and saintly virtues. Sure, her husband is “irascible.” But in a good way. Besides which, we’re certain the missus can do justice to the Old Guy’s heroic life. She’s a good writer. Very creative.
Grandma Rose on the farm always had the obituary pages spread out on her crowded kitchen table. Now that we’re older we find good reading on the obit page — and an increasing number of friends. Ever notice that maybe half the obits never mention how the deceased earned their living? They were a Green Bay Packer season ticket holder, loved their cabin on Namekagon Lake, and joined the Holy Name Society. But what was their occupation? Best forgotten?
We do have these strictures for our final Boswell, whomever that may be. Please do not write that Blaska “fought heroically” or “died with dignity.” More likely, the big baby will whine like a worn transmission, curse like a captured pirate, and gobble hallucinogens as if they were Haribo Gummie Bears. In fact, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to have a big bowl of ’em at the Wake, if you plan one. (Gummie Bears, stupid!) As for music, how about the “Ballad of Easy Rider,” by Roger McGuinn? Or my all-time favorite from George Harrison, “As My Guitar Gently Weeps.” But if you want to play “Celebrate” by Kool & The Gang, there’s nothing to stop you, except a good haunting. Think Beetlejuice.
Whether in the obituary or the big cathedral funeral, it’s O.K. to mention the Dead Guy’s faults. Be hard to ignore them.
Large newspapers like the New York Times have dedicated obit writers ready to go the moment their subjects’ pilot light goes poof. One of Madison’s best writers, George Hesselberg, compiled his final accounts of “a sword designer, a radio villain, … and a beloved classroom tarantula,” in book form, cleverly titled Deadlines. From George’s interview with his old newspaper:
George Wood (1928-2009) took the bus downtown, bought a calendar and went to Witte Hall to get out of the rain, sat down and he died. Why do I like that obit? Here’s an 80-year old man and he bought a calendar. What better predictor of hope is there than that?
The Werkes visits the subject of this final earthly accounting having been impressed by side-by-side obituaries in today’s Wisconsin State Journal. One begins: “Cathie was my wife. We agreed that I would tell her story as best I could.” We can feel the love and the pain, right there. God bless her family. The other begins with admirable wire service directness, then illuminates a vivid person who lived large:
Jean Depew McKenzie, 91, died on February 11, 2022. Jean told her kids that when she died she didn’t want a big obituary. This is her children’s last opportunity to disobey.
Blaska’s Bottom (but not final) Line: We didn’t know the dear departed during her life. Now we do.