The Obituary that Wasn't: A Contrast
Last New Year’s Eve my cousin was found dead on his front porch by a neighbor. He’d died of complications of diabetes. It was shocking and sad, but not surprising. He’d been neglecting his care for quite some time and had, in fact, been released from the hospital barely a week before. My mother commented that it was a good thing his parents were not here to see how he died as they’d be devastated.
This was especially sad for me. My cousin, whom I’ll call “Rich,” was only a year older than I. His death is also the first one in my generation within the family. Plus, the day he died, New Year’s Eve, happens to be my birthday. In his dealings with me, he was always friendly, if a little dismissive.
He had his differences with his seven brothers and sisters, but they are by a measure any contentious bunch. His first marriage ended in a divorce. He had a few minor scrapes with the law. Little of this showed up in his obituary, or in the picture next to it, where he’s smiling but looks 10 years older than he was. But someone cared to put together a wonderful obituary for him, to arrange visitation and a memorial for him.
The night before my wedding in March, my alcoholic stepfather died. I hadn’t talked to him, much less seen him, in about 30 years so his death didn’t affect the wedding. I expressed my sympathy to my little sister, who is his daughter.
“I’m OK,” she assured me.
About a month earlier, she had called me in tears, having been told that her father—with whom she’d had nothing to do for 13 years—was not expected to live the weekend. She was buying an (expensive) one-way ticket and flying down from Fairbanks to southern California to see him one last time before he died. She was hoping to see me and meet my (then) fiancé while she was down here. I said of course, that I was looking forward to seeing her, but not to expect me to go to the hospital with her. That got the intended laugh.
The man who wasn’t supposed to live through the weekend was well enough to make himself breakfast the next Monday. Oh, praise Jesus it must be a miracle. Or maybe something more prosaic, like the exaggerations of the daughters from her father’s first marriage, who were themselves on their way back home to the East coast while at the same time busy convincing my little sister the grim reaper was sharpening up his scythe, deserting their dear old dad at his, ahem, last hour.
Another sister, also a daughter of the alcoholic stepfather, long ago made up her mind that there would be no deathbed reconciliation. He and his present wife kicked her out of the house when they found out she was dating a woman. Furthermore, they refused to pay for her college while she was going down “that road.” My sister doesn’t have a college degree, but she’s with the same woman, some 25 years later. The final break came when her father’s present wife showed up at her work one day telling her that her father had broken his leg at work and had a stroke. She made a scene in front of my sister’s coworkers, saying he was near death and this might be the last time she could see him. Wouldn’t she come? No. Years later, the silly woman tried to friend her on Facebook. My sister blocked her.
The night before my wedding, when my whole family was in town for the occasion, the same silly woman called my youngest sister to tell her her father had died. The story (I cannot vouch for its accuracy) is that he was driving, possibly to a doctor’s appointment, and had a heart attack. He pulled over and died.
My littlest sister asked about a memorial.
“What memorial?” his wife said. “He didn’t have any friends.”
The room was quiet for a while once the news broke, no one wanting to hurt anyone else’s feelings. Then my mother said, “Oh, he’s dead? Well, that’s that.”
Knowing that she belonged to a church, I checked the paper for weeks to see if his wife had at least an obituary placed for him. I found none. His daughters left notes on their Facebook pages (yes, I got nosy) about losing their father, but nothing about a funeral, and I could find no obituary notice anywhere. I contrast that with the one written for my cousin, who certainly had his differences with his family.
Well, that’s that.
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/raven-cemetery-cross-blue-sky-553196/ by elianemey