What follows is my entry in a local Short Story Contest.
It all started when I began reading the obituary page in our daily newspaper.
A sort of gallows humor emerged as I looked at the pictures and read about the dearly departed’s life and times. I noticed, with my eight decades of living, that I was about the same age as many who passed off the mortal coil.
In reading many of the “obits,” I concluded that if I wanted a good obit I’d best write it in advance of my passing. Some of the statements I noted in reading obits started with “died peacefully;” “passed on surrounded by loving family;” “died after a long illness;” “left unexpectedly;” “died after a brief illness,” “passed on peacefully,” etc. Personally, I don’t think I’d be dying peacefully if I were surrounded by family . And preferably not peacefully in any case: to quote Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light” – that’s more my style.
Also, the pictures which accompanied some of the obits sometimes showed the deceased at about age 20: surely not accurate for their look by the time of their death. And the photos showing them having aged: at best, these show the remorselessness of time..
To get to the point, I became certain that it was a big mistake to leave the writing of one’s obit to family.
Over the years I had formed opinions about just what happens after body death, such as going to heaven (or somewhere else 🙂 ); reincarnating; returning to a vast pool of spiritual nothingness from which individual souls or spirits emerge . . . By the time I passed 8 decades, I was pleasantly uncertain as to what, if anything, came after dying. I philosophically settled for the idea that there would be either something or nothing. If there was to be something, I’d find out when the time came.
I had been having a lot of fun and many laughs writing my obituary. When I finished I had a glorious obituary, and one that even gave me the feeling that I’ll be missed.
Perhaps I erred in sending copies of my obit to a few of my old cronies, thinking they’d get quite a kick out of it. Imagine my surprise a few days later, finding my obit featured in our daily newspaper!
I was so taken by the outpourings of friends and relatives arriving on the answering machine and by e-mail that I said to myself, and I quote, “What the hell – I’ll just go ahead and make it true.”
That night, using a method of dying I learned about in the South Seas, where one lies down and wills one’s body to die, I lay down to pursue this method, and after awhile fell into a dreamless sleep.
Unfortunately, to my dismay, I awoke the next morning in excellent health and spirits.