Another Day in the Country
Having the last say
© Another Day in the Country
A couple of months ago, an obituary appeared in the Marion County Record that the deceased had written himself.
I read it only because publisher Eric Meyer had written a paragraph or two about it on the editorial page. I didn’t know the man, but I liked him immediately, wished I’d known him, and enjoyed reading his own summation of his life.
Months later, I think about him even though I don’t remember his name and I don’t remember the particulars of his life.
But I’ll never forget the phrase he repeated after the paragraphs listing important junctures: “Life is good.”
Wouldn’t it be an interesting exercise for all of us, during this slower period — whether it’s because of isolating yourself or just getting older with more time to contemplate — to take on the challenge of writing our own obituaries.
“You’d better write your own, that’s for sure,” my sister said. “I wouldn’t know where to start.”
I’ve written a lot of obituaries in Ramona. It’s really rather enjoyable, an honor, to write about people who are gone, whether you knew them well or you’re just the recipient of interesting stories from their relatives and friends.
It’s a celebration of sorts, that is sometimes humorous, honest, poignant, and amazing to hear, and for a brief time we sigh and smile and forget how much we’ll miss them.
The worst thing is when someone who doesn’t know them well, or is worried about offending, or is extremely private, and the sentences are boring and redundant — just the facts. That’s sad, because there’s enough same-old, same-old at typical funerals without having an interesting summation of life. Because “life is good.”
It’s a good exercise to undertake, this writing of your own obituary. Just thinking about doing it, I’m smiling — no, more like grinning, a somewhat mischievous twinkle in my eye,
“Should I tell them that?” I muse.
No wonder that man who I wish I’d known kept saying, “Life is good.”
In spite of the fact that repeating a phrase is a good speech-writing technique, one realizes — during this writing exercise — just how good life really is! Even in the midst of a pandemic, it’s good.
Reviewing my life, I remember mostly how much fun I’ve had, how miraculously things turned out, how precious the moments, how audacious some of my choices, how silly most of my worries, how impossible to condense it all into a few words, and how wonderful to experience life.
No matter your age, this exercise of summation is a good one. When I was a kid, my focus would have been toward the future. Obviously my past, then, would be a short story: born in California because there were no jobs available in Ramona, so Dad headed toward his uncles who’d migrated to Lodi to grow grapes.
I never asked them why they returned to Ramona after I was born. I do know it was important once again, after they got back, to get away.
Growing up a preacher’s kid, I vowed I would NEVER marry a preacher, but I did. I vowed never to get divorced, but I did. I discovered that things I vowed never to do would confront me over and over in life so I stopped making predictions.
The so-called milestones of a life are what? Birthplace, education, marriage, career, children, etc., but where did you go, what did you see, how did it enrich your life? What did you miss? What did you wish for, desire, abhor? Who did you love, and what did you fear? What did you wish you had known, and what were you told and did it turn out in that way? Really. This is truth time!
And what did you learn? What chances did you take?
Well, now that I’ve asked, the biggest chance I ever took was to come back to Ramona, to spend another day in the country.
And was it worth it? Was it hard?
Yes and yes!
Would you have done something different, now that you know what you know?
No. Well, maybe. I’d probably have tried to talk Mom out of building a new house in Ramona (property tax is horrendously high); but then again, it brought her so much joy.
And what’s your advice?
Go for it!
Be kind. Laugh a lot. Smile. Breathe. Clean up after yourself. Be grateful.
LOVE: kids, others, friends, tulips, woodpeckers, mashed potatoes, books, paper and pens, innovation, new ideas, old jeans, flannel shirts, rings, basil, blue eggs, patchouli, popcorn, down pillows, poetry, yourself!
Do you still have plans, hopes, desires, and dreams to fulfill? And why or why not? Or who cares?
I do! To quote a wise man, “Life is good.”