Are self obits a good thing?
Are you an unsung hero? Do those you encounter not appreciate the “real” you? Must you always having the last word?
Then you might be interested in the new trend spotted by USA Today: self-penned obituaries, also known as “selfie obits” or “autobituaries.”
As someone who has been chronicling some semblance of his ups and downs and opinions over the past 16 years, I probably shouldn’t begrudge anyone else the opportunity to write their own final testament, but I feel obligated to point out the pitfalls.
For one thing, the earlier in life you start the obituary, the more it’s just one more nagging thing to keep updated. Otherwise an octogenarian will pass away with the remembrance “Just you wait until the second half of kindergarten, Maggie O’Day — you’ll be my girlfriend sure.”
Perhaps someone will start a public service campaign to remind people to update their obituaries on New Year’s Eve, when they replace their smoke alarm batteries. Of course priorities might get messed up. (“My greatest accomplishment so far? Photocopying my bottom just now — without throwing up more than once.”)
Standard newspaper obituaries can be boring, but at least they’re professional. Unless someone does some judicious editing of the selfie obits, we will be subjected to things such as “Those stoopid teacherz awl thawt eye needed there lessins, butt I kan xpress the S-ints of hu eye am juss fine.”
While selfie obits remain a novelty, you can get away with an “eat your heart out” or “don’t you wish you had paid more attention to me while I was alive?” attitude. When everybody is trying to be creative and brutally frank, readers faced with a sea of purple prose may just think, “Hey, I wonder what Garfield is up to today?”
There is the danger of coming across as too whiney or needy. As Winston Churchill stated, “History is written by the victors.” People may get the impression that it should be “History is written by the losers who have too much time on their hands.”
Get ready for hoary obituary cliches to get a “too much information” rework, as in “He always saw the best in people — especially the internal organs. Mmmmm.”
With no one to ensure the accuracy of the obits, fantasies, outright lies and self-serving appraisals (grassy knoll revelations, never-revealed ascendancy to the papacy, etc.) will abound. Legions of lawyers will be called in to determine whether a selfie obit is really the final word, or whether others mentioned in it have a right to add comments.
For instance, the long-suffering deceased might finally open up with, “Roscoe Noodleman busted his hump for that company for 30 years without even a gold watch.”
And the former employers might want to add, “Our posthumous thanks to Mr. Noodleman for bringing a safety hazard to our attention. Our monthly safety courses now include the warning that leaning on a broom for 30 years while discussing Lakers games can lead to busted humps.”
Those who fill their obituaries with raw emotion and confessions may suffer the consequences. (“I guess my biggest regret is having that secret affair with my son’s wife. That, or telling my daughter I needed that $10,000 for an operation instead of to pay off my gambling debts. I’ll bet you’re going to give me the cheap funeral now. Oh, man!”)
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.