My father died last Sunday. And that’s a pretty good hook.
Seriously, he passed away with his family in attendance and everything done well. But it made for a long day in the hospital and a longer night. Finally around 4am it was over. Everyone came back home to crash on the floors, the couches, whatever. After a very sunshiny brunch (if you think we should wear sackcloth and eat ashes, no, that’s not how we wanted to remember our father), we returned home and started to discuss what had to be done next.
Someone mentioned, “We need to write an obituary.”
Being the writing in the family, I knew where that would fall. And I was tired. And in shock. And depressed. And despondent. You know all those other Dog Ears where I talk about learning to write when you don’t feel like writing (because that’s when true writing takes place)? Well, this was really one of those times.
While the nieces looked through the photos for something that would show him at his best, I sat down with my tinytop and considered. The newspaper had just come so I flipped to the obits and read a few to see how it was done. Very different styles, very different arcs. But I got it. So I settled into the task and started tossing questions to my mom as I worked it up, giving it the writer’s twist.
My sister is a doctor. She did her stuff all during the night, interpreting what was told to us, coming up with strategies, running things. Now it was my turn. This is what writers like us do. And it doesn’t matter if we are tired or in shock or ready to puke our brunch down our shirts when the random thought comes that I’ll never see Pop again. This is what I could do for him, a tiny bit of the repayment for the lessons that he taught me and the person that he made me. And so I wrote and rewrote and revised.
You’ve heard the old line, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Well, yes, occasionally someone might call for a writer in the house. Not often, and not so dramatically, but they might. A friend might need a note of sympathy. A roommate might need a resume. A coworker might need a report. And this is where we need to rise to it, not because we are in the mood, or think it will be fun, or do it because we might score a book deal. We do it because we are writers, damn good writers, and we can write even though we are in the deepest shock we’ve felt in a long time.
If you can’t do this, shut down your copy of Word and sit in front of the TV like the rest. I’ve got things to write.
Like this blog.
And my next novel.
But hopefully (please God), no more obituaries.
FYI – Here’s the obit. I’m proud of it.