Monday, September 3, 2007

Writing My Death Notice

I am a reader of death notices. I am not sure when this started, but it has gone on for a number of years. Maybe it started when I entered a new demographic category; for example, when I left the comfortable, desirable 25-34 category and entered the 35-44 one. [Is it obvious that I was a research analyst for awhile or does everybody know about those demographic divisions?]

Or maybe it started in earnest when I started reading the local weekly newspaper. When it was more likely there would be someone listed with whom I had some connection than would be the case in the San Francisco Chronicle. Maybe they had kids or grandkids who attended the same school as mine or played soccer on the same team. Or maybe the person attended my church.

Whatever the reason, I am now an avid reader of the death notices. I make snap judgments about the dead and the survivors based on the notice. Is there a picture? Is it lengthy? If yes, someone among the survivors has enough money or sense of loss (or ego) to go all out.

How old was the deceased? Anyone born prior to the 1930s, I assume lived a full life. Born in the 1930s, I equate them with my mom, whom I really want to live a very long time. Born in the 40s or 50s, kind of an early death, but not tragically early. Born in the 60s, and it could have been me. And so on.

Long ago in school, I had the assignment as a teen to write my own obituary. Full of angst, rebellious, all middle class, we all wrote extraordinary lives for ourselves. Some of us took the easy route out and wrote of our deaths in fiery crashes graduation night. Among us were the famed and infamous: presidents, judges, rock stars, Oscar winners. You name it, we were going to do it.

Not that anyone did, mind you.

But I know what I want my death notice to be like for real now. And I saw the guide in the paper yesterday. It was the death notice for Alex L. Finkle, MD. I do not know Dr. Finkle or anyone related to him. But he and I are the same. Amidst the honors and accomplishments for this wonderful, high-achieving urologist and surgeon were these words:

"Along with his dedication to medicine, he was well known for his keen sense of humor. His jokes were legendary; he collected them for decades to be included in his never-completed joke book "If You Can't Tinkle, Call Finkle."

Yeah, now that's my kind of guy.

[Want to read his death notice in full? Click here for the Marin Independent Journal notice.]


Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

I'm fascinated as well; have you seen the book The Last Word? It's a collection of NY Times obituaries of interesting people throughout history--I loved it :)

Anonymous said...

I remember this assignment in school, too! Wish I could remember what I wrote. Thanks for sharing this. It does make you wonder...what will ours say!

Jeni said...

Based on the title alone of the deceased never completed book, I'd say that gentleman definitely had a very good sense of humor!


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