In celebration of one of my New Year’s resolutions–the one about being lazy from time to time–I’m simply going to ask a question today.

What would you like your obituary to say?

I was reading the Sunday Dec. 30 issue of the New York Times Magazine, entitled “The Lives They Lived”. It’s a collection of essays on noteworthy or well-known people (or people who should have been well-known) who died in 2007. It’s an astonishing array of people–and animals. (I was pleased to see Alex the talking parrot and Washoe, the hand-signing chimp included on the list.) Politicians and athletes, of course, but also the mother of a famous athlete. Soldiers. Inventors. A hacker. A blogger. A woman who helped hundreds of downed RAF pilots escape Germany under the very noses of the Nazis. Artists, writers, a fashion designer. People who set out to change the world and succeeded–or didn’t. People who had no intention of changing the world–and did.

It’s a fascinating collection of stories. I thought I’d read a couple. I couldn’t put it down til I’d read every one.

And it got me thinking about the obituary thing.

When all is said and done, and your live is someday beautifully summarized such on a page in the New York Times Magazine, what would you like it to say?

And more telling…

What do you think it would say now?

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

11 thoughts on “OBITUARIES”

  1. Something like what every other one says, unfortunately the measurement of life is that of achievement. With a couple of limerick like stories about some event that happened so long ago any sort of accuracy is minimal.

    I hope its a bit more inventive.


  2. I, too, read the obits from time to time. I live in a very populated area so, unfortunately, there are always lots of them to read. One that I remember from a few months ago was an obit of a lady who was known for her sixteen layer chocolate cakes. That stopped me cold! SIXTEEN layer chocolate cakes!!! Can you imagine? But once I got past that, I thought about how interesting it was to have something special in your life to be remembered for, even if it was a special cake. We all want to be remembered with loving thoughts by our family and friends and that is important to me, too. But I would also like to be remembered for my work, which is creating art dolls. That is my passion and that is the one thing that makes me unique. But as I write this and ponder the question, is that enough and is there more I could and should be doing with my life? Thanks for posing the question, Luann. It’s something to think about.


  3. I just returned from saying goodbye to my dear brother, who died suddenly on Saturday. He lived what most would consider a quiet life. But a life full of connections and meaning: Quaker, anti-war activist, contra dancer, bicyclist, supporter of folk music, husband of over 35 years, father and grandfather. Non materialistic, not flashy, but a person who helped others. I think that when all is said and done, it is more important that you take time to make connections with those around you than to succeed in any other way.


  4. Beth, I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your brother has left a true legacy of kindness and connection, as you said.

    I think what I liked about the people selected for the essays in the NYT Magazine is their impact wasn’t always about financial success or fame. Many of them actually led very quiet lives. Some were never in the limelight, but strongly affected the lives of others who were. Many of the essays were thoughtful assessments of the total person and the sometimes subtle impact (positive or not) they made on our world–not just what the headlines would say.


  5. I want to be remembered as the grandma who made those fantastic cookies! When I am dead and gone and the family it sitting around the table and they will say- “Gee Grandma sure made the BEST cookies! There was love in every bite!”
    I also would like to be remembered for my artwork. I don’t think I will be famous, but I think my family will like to have my art journals and such. (My one daughter has already put in her dibbs for my Cavalini leather mideval art journal!).


  6. What a great question to ask of us. I think at present some would say I loved the cats I care for at the shelter and my former customers at the library would say I was bright and helpful and that I humanely bent the rules when it made sense. (Huh. Not as bad as I thought) In real life I often dwell on my poor choices.
    I hope my true obituary says I was an active volunteer and an accomplished jazz pianist. It would be good to be remembered as a practical joker. I better get to work on that!
    By the way, of the NYT mag., I loved the story of Joybubbles and went so far as to read an interview of him online and hear a recording of his phone “broadcasts”.


  7. Elizabeth, I think the best thing about the NYT Magazine essays was that so many of those people had no idea they would be “famous”. We really have no idea what effect our lives will have…. Maybe one of your grandchildren will make a mint with those cookies a la Mrs. Fields! :^)

    Carol, I think there was something in those essays for everybody! Now you’ve made me want to go back and check out Joybubbles. :^)


  8. I got to read some of the stories. I was also struck by the fact that these people didn’t set out to “wow” anyone they did what they loved or believed, in essence followed their hearts. To me that is what this whole life thing is about.

    Thanks again Luann

    Deborah Hill


  9. Deborah: YES!!
    It occurred to me, too, that many of them were not “famous” or “successful” in the sense we think of today–in and out of rehab with tons of publicity photos, making tons of money, living in huge fancy houses, whatever. But they made significant social contributions, created change, opened our minds, made someone’s life better. In fact, sometimes they had impact on ONE PERSON–and THAT person changed the world….


  10. Today is an anniversary of the day my mom died…sadly alot of people who knew her were already gone. I often am struck by the big death days in the paper versus normal days. I wonder why so many certain days.


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