They Could Have Said Good-bye

Good-bye – alteration of G-d be with you.  First Known Use: circa 1580


Tom Lehrer knew a good obituary when he saw one.  In 1965 he sung about Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel (1879-1964) a woman who had been romantically involved with the best and brightest of 20th Century central Europe.  She married three of these successful men.  Her obituary detailed all of this and Lehrer gave us Alma: 

Alma, tell us

All modern women are jealous.

You should have a statue in bronze

For bagging Gustav and Walter and Franz.  

As noted last week, I read the obituaries every day as part of my job.  Most obits are predictable and of little interest to anyone but the deceased’s friends and family.  The words beloved, dearest, and devoted are liberally sprinkled throughout these 50 – 75 word essays. 

This is it.  This is the family’s last chance to tell the world how great their dad was, how much they loved their mother.  Obituaries are optional.  The newspaper publishes a death notice, the names of everyone who has died in the paper’s service area.  It is up to the friends and/or family whether they choose to memorialize the recently departed. 

That is how it usually works.  Every once in awhile a little truth sneaks in.  And sometimes, sometimes the family uses the obituary page as a vehicle to set the record straight or to get the last word.  The following obituary appeared recently.  I don’t know the family and never met the deceased.  I have redacted the names, even though this was published in the Plain Dealer, for reasons that will soon be apparent.  This is how the family chose to spend $250. 

XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX, from Parma, OH, died on April 19. He was a better grandpa than he was a dad, but he had some decent moments with his kids that involved nature walks, Geauga Lake, and watching campy horror films. He enjoyed working at the local deli, with his friend Al, and he made really good sandwiches. He put a lot of thought into it and always put the sliced tomatoes separate so they didn’t make the bread all wet and soggy. He could cook anything on the grill, and he could grow anything in the garden. He liked animals, especially birds, as well as flowers, trees, and well-tended gardens. He knew a lot about these things, as well as astronomy and metallurgy. He also enjoyed reading National Geographic and the Smithsonian. He hated rap music, people who took too long to make left turns, and the invention of the breathalyzer. He loved his parents, Jack and Dorothy XXXXX and enjoyed his grandchildren. He is survived by his mother, brothers, Gary and Keith XXXXX, and children, Heather, Meggin, Aaron and Hilary. In spite of everything, he will be missed, especially by his grandchildren, xxxxxx, xxxxx and xxxxx.

He is dead.  It is now up to each of us to keep those sliced tomatoes separate and the rye bread dry.  And the family has had their say. 

The one thing they didn’t say was “Good-bye”.