Thursday, November 16, 2017

Here Lies Peter

"I have a good idea," my wife Helena said last Saturday afternoon, just as I was about to begin the Toronto Star Premier Crossword puzzle. "You should write your own obituary."

And then she added, "You're good at stuff like that."

Stuff like writing my own death notice? There is no other "stuff" like that. Which is what I told Helena.

Then I mentioned that a colleague I really looked up to--the late Peter Worthington--penned his own obit and started with "If you are reading this, I am dead."  Pretty fair opener, I'd say.

What Helena likely meant was I would do a decent job regaling everybody with stories about what a fine upstanding and hardworking guy I am/was. Leaving out all the not-so pretty parts.
So to speak.

Because that's what most obits are.

I've given this idea what some might deem an unhealthy amount of consideration over the years. Death notices are the happiest stories in the newspaper. Sad things happen in the newsy parts of the paper, but in the obitverse? Nature takes its course.

First off, for the vast majority of people in the obit section, passing away is actually what my sister Mary might call age-appropriate behavior. With all due respect and anybody who knows me understands that I mean that sincerely--most people die old. Of, well, fatal illnesses. Which raises the question, "Doesn't anybody die of old age anymore?"

When I was a kid growing up in Sudbury, that and keeling over with a heart attack after shoveling the driveway were the leading causes of bucket kicking.

The vast majority of the dead people--if you believe the little write-ups and I do--led reasonably long productive lives, with good jobs. Most started in the mail room but rose through the ranks. At Hydro.

Popeil's inventions worked. Ish.
The deceased were all very competitive bridge players and their bonsai trees the envy of the garden club. For their surviving loved ones-- some of whom stood lovingly at their bedside when the time came--summer weekends at Lake St. Joe just won't be the same without the tinkling sound of ice cubes in the deceased guy's tumbler of Crown Royal. Oh, and who'll ever forget that good ole Grampa O also liked to make the odd off-color joke?

In death-notice land, few guys had halitosis, showed up for work hung over a bit too frequently or drove like an idiot without regard for other people's safety. They might have been thrifty, but never cheap. And they all caught fish.

Helena's right. I am positioned to deliver a fine account of myself. Honest, interesting, and just about objective as a Popeil's Pocket Fisherman TV commercial.

Just two things. When I go, I don't want nobody having a "celebration of Pete's life." If I can't be there, I don't want any parties. I want tears and sadness and people wondering aloud, "How are we going to go on without Peter??" Also. I sure hope I don't "go doing something I love." It'd be way better to go out doing something I hate, like getting yelled at. Or having a root canal.

But I digress.

The important thing is, Helena suggested I write my own obit. Could she be up to something?

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