In the event of something happening to me…

As I am about to embark on a cross-country journey by bicycle, I am cognizant of the fact that danger lurks around every corner and that this trip could be my last. I am also cognizant of the blogger’s overdeveloped sense of drama.

Writing an obituary is a thankless task. You have to make the dead person sound good. No one likes to read the obit of an asshole. On the other hand, you can’t make him sound like a saint. No one would believe you. So how does one tread that middle ground?

I am not a fan of the euphemism. My daughter makes a sport of reading obits for the euphemisms for death: “went to her mansion in heaven”, “went home to meet his heavenly father”, “transitioned from his physical body”, “shed his earthly en-trappings”, “passed into life”, “‘complete’ healing”… When I die, I plan to die. In obituaries, everyone who dies of cancer dies heroically after a long struggle. They fought death. I don’t expect to die a hero. If I fought, I’d probably lose.

[Insert blogger’s name here] died on [insert date here] of [insert cause of death here]. He went kicking and screaming, crying like a baby. His last words were, “Please no! I’m too young to die! Take him instead!”

[The blogger] was tortured by his older siblings as a child. His parents were clearly complicit, as evidenced by these photos from the family photo album.

He never got over this, living, as he died, a miserable wretch. His obituary photo is the last known photo of him happy.

Last known happy picture of the blogger. He can no longer chew his own toenails without bending his knee.

[The blogger] worked a variety of odd jobs throughout his life. He never fit in anywhere, flitting about at 5 to 20 year intervals. He was never very good at anything. One might say he was half-assed. In his longest-tenured job, he never rose to a management level. He would say that he never wanted to be middle management in a large corporation, but he embodied the Peter Principle, rising to his level of incompetence. In his case, that was at the bottom.

He left behind [insert survivors here], who drew straws to see who had to write his obituary. Luckily for them, he pre-wrote some of it. He did want everyone to know this, his last recorded words:

He never worked anywhere long enough to earn a pension and left his family as paupers. They got their revenge via his obituary.

Fill in the blanks

This exercise and song made me realize that MadLibs would make a great way to write an obituary. But since we’re on the topic, I will get serious for a moment. If you haven’t already, write an advance directive to let folks know what you want done if you are ever in a state where you are unable to make medical decisions. Find someone close to you, have a (or some) serious discussion(s) about this, and grant them power of attorney for healthcare, so they can make those decisions, guided by your conversations and written wishes. To do this, you have to think about serious illness, injury, and death, topics most of us avoid studiously.

Consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. In addition to the obvious (donating kidneys, liver, pancreas, heart, lungs), you can donate corneas, bone, skin. You can donate your whole body for cadaver study. You wouldn’t want your surgeons to operate on you having never done it before, right? Cadavers provide opportunity to study and practice. We can look at pictures in books all day, but humans are not all alike. Cadaver study gives up an opportunity to see individual variations and learn hands-on. A study I am involved in examines the brains of people who died with Alzheimer’s Disease, or the offspring of people who had the disease.

Benjamin Franklin said that nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. The latter is clearly no longer certain.