Recently, as a friend and I were massaging mashed bananas into our hair, (uh, don’t ask), she told me she had selected the photograph she wanted for her obituary.
Well, I was a little taken aback, and as we arranged plastic shower caps around the pond scum, (I don’t want to talk about it), she showed me a series of pictures she’d had done a few years back. I have to admit, they were lovely. My friend has always been pretty, and these glamour shots made her look even lovelier.
To tell the truth, I’ve never given much thought to my obituary. After all, I reasoned, we’ll be dead. What do WE care?
But she explained that she wasn’t sure she could count on her survivors to select the most flattering photo, so she was making the decision herself.
Hmmm. There was a certain mutant logic to the argument.
When we began attracting clusters of fruit flies by our over-ripe fruity smell, it was time to wash the pungent banana mash from our scalps, and I went home, not thinking much more about it.
However, coincidentally, in the mail that very day was a cemetery planning survey asking questions about my age, my general appearance, if I had cirrhosis of the toenails, yellowing fungus anywhere visible, furry nostrils, and whether my skin was mottled, intricately patterned with spider veins, and/or corrugated. As a post script, they added a solicitation for permission to harvest any hearing aids I now own or may purchase in the future. Their sales pitch centered on my peace of mind and a gala celebration for those “dear ones left behind.”
What is this sudden obsession with my morbidity? Now, I believe in being prepared, but this is absurd. I’ll be dead. WHAT DOES IT MATTER???
And then...I began to think about it.
And then…it began to matter.
HMMM. Do I trust MY survivors to make the very best decisions regarding my obit and its accompanying picture under circumstances of extreme stress and unrequited grief?
I think not.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I ransacked old scrapbooks for any photographs that might be suitable for publication, but my candids always catch me in a half blink that makes me look like I’m just emerging from a drug-induced stupor. And my mouth is inevitably half open like I’m mid-belch prior to the eruption of a second round of projectile hurling.
Of course, it’s a little late at this point to obtain retro glamour photography without a whole lotta photoshopping and some cosmic intervention. So I called my friend and asked if I could borrow one of her glamour shots. I mean, how many does she need anyway? Besides, we’re both blond. No one will notice. She said I could have the pick of the litter.
I selected the one with the turned up collar and the jaunty pink cowboy hat. She said that would be fine, since she is using the shot with the feathery boa and the long pearls. (I never could do boas.)
So her picture, along with a close-up of Michelle Pfeiffer, is safely tucked away in a box marked “Obit File…to be used only with extreme discretion.” I figure my girls can choose the image they want to submit to the paper when the time comes.
Ahhhh. That was a good thing done. I had those few moments of peace of mind promised by the Grim Reaper brochures.
And then, by virtue of linear reasoning, I began ruminating about the actual obituary content. There are some things one simply does not want revealed. Like my stint in rehab for harsh language aversion therapy, or being involuntarily hospitalized for the criminally inane.
Now, I’m not accusing the girls of dubious journalistic integrity. There are, after all, generational differences, aberrant humor, and the pay-back phenomenon. But knowing the basic rule of precedence…the survivors write the history…I have decided to write my own memorial, myopically but objectively, so I can tell my own tale without it being distorted by truth or honesty.
Besides, I know Erin and Brodi. They would no doubt sit around the kitchen table, as we have done so often, share stories, and laugh themselves stuporous, claiming, “Mom aged out at the Richard Simmons Memorial Museum, forming spit bubbles and muttering alliterative soliloquys to no one in particular.
They would claim I demonstrated admirable creative numerical license as a “born again Boomer” with an adjustable birth date unsubstantianted by fact, forensics, or carbon dating.
I can hear it now.
They might announce that their mother was a fossil, not the Missing Link, and think it a compliment; that through sheer dumb luck, she escaped being “Teo’ed” because she didn’t know the difference between catfish and trout; and that she was forever empowered by mascara and stiletoes.
Words like “smokin’,” and “smolderin’,” would be glaringly omitted, but “disproportionate glutinous downward migration,” and “severe torso deprivation” would send them into further eruptions of sustained merriment.
Now, I don’t want to be arrested by the Modesty Squad, but here’s how I want my obit to read: “She succumbed after enduring a lifetime of outrageous intelligence syndrome. She was afflicted by severe Dick Cheney revulsion, but was a devout Rafa Nadal enthusiast. She bore her unmistakable resemblance to Kate Upton with grace and dignity, never complaining.
She was on a first-name basis with Stephen Hawking, and demonstrated remarkable patience when swarmed by rabid fans mistaking her for Diane Sawyer.
Suspicions of delusions of grandeur are suspect and highly exaggerated.”
It is good to be prepared. However, no amount of planning can anticipate every contingency.