You finally get your name in the paper.
That printed proof of your existence accentuates your positives.
Only you can’t read it.
Because you’re dead.
Fortunately, though, at times the deceased can have the last words on their mortal legacies in pre-written obituary form.
They can even offer comic relief for the grief inflicted by their passings.
From Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch:
“Scott E. Entsminger, 55, of Mansfield, died Thursday, July 4, 2013 at his residence. Born January 8, 1958 in Columbus, Ohio, he was the son of William and Martha (Kirkendall) Entsminger. He retired from General Motors after 32 years of service. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time. ...”
Great parting shot, Scott.
But if you’ve gotten in the habit of reading obits in this or any other newspaper as you’ve gotten older, you likely weren’t struck only by that last-play sack of the hapless Browns.
You probably also noticed Entsminger’s age (55) — especially if you’re over 55.
And many who live long enough eventually experience this generational shift in obit-driven awareness of mortality:
They go from occasionally seeing news of their friends’ parents deaths in the paper to all too frequently seeing news of their friends’ deaths.
Fourth and very long
Aging readers also increasingly check out the obits — even before turning to our enlightening editorials.
In the grim realization process, they learn that life is like football in that the final horn (maybe even Gabriel’s in this eternal case) is coming.
Yet life is also not like football in that we have no timeouts, can’t see the clock and don’t get a two-minute warning.
Savvy local consumers know that our Sunday coupons can more than cover the still-bargain price of a Post and Courier subscription.
Our obits are also a strong selling point.
And some of the sweetest, most touching prose we print comes in our obits.
That includes last week’s tribute to “a generous and giving soul” who was a fine, funny friend to my wife.
Such heartfelt salutes to the departed deliver a welcome diversion from the steady Sturm und Drang of depressing revelations about political corruption, economic misery, global turmoil, school rezoning, cruise-debate discord and other modern menaces.
A typically glowing obit:
Joe Schmoe, 59, died Wednesday after a long, brave battle against a cruel disease. His loving family and friends were at his side. This wonderful man will be sorely missed.
OK, so many grand folks wage courageous struggles against fatal ailments — and merit grand praise when they finally lose them.
Then again, many isn’t the same as all.
And the public really does a have a right to know.
Just don’t expect to see an obit like this anytime soon:
Boland Hanklin Gluten III, 59, died Wednesday after quickly, cravenly and characteristically surrendering to a malady that surely wouldn’t have taken a better man — at least not nearly so soon. This bad man’s abrupt demise at last liberates the good people he constantly tormented, including family members, co-workers and the few gluttons for punishment who remained his friends. The chronic liar, braggart, coward and bully wallowed in self-pity to his predictably bitter end, verbally assailing the dwindling ranks of those who still subjected themselves to his vile company. They, and this world, are well rid of him.
And if you’ve been putting off pondering what your own obit should say, heed this timeless warning to the audience from Bugs Bunny in 1960’s “Rabbit’s Feat”:
“Well, like the man says, don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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