Keeping it Real
Time was when the notice of a passing was an opportunity to laud achievements, celebrate family and otherwise ignore the deceased’s infuriating shortcomings, at least in writing. Acknowledgment of the departed’s pain-in-the-assness was limited to oblique comments where the assembled mourners would nod and titter nervously at an honest observation.
Our age of instant celebrity where all the world’s a stage is sloshing over into the afterlife as the time honored obituary becomes an opportunity to take a few final shots. The apparently not-so-bereaved children of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick unloaded in her widely published obituary, “Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit,”
They missed that aphorism about “If you can’t say anything nice…”
The other trend is the “obit call-out” where putative mourners are waylaid in writing for sins against the “guest of honor.” Such call-outs used to emerge during the will-reading stage but the immediacy of our culture is moving everything up.
The writer of Thurman Winston’s obituary saved the best for the very last sentence after extolling a life well led:
It’s doubtful whether the the indebted ones will rush forward after that piece of prose.