My very first real job – after my high school career of tying tomatoes on a farm and making wreaths for a pittance for the farmer’s daughter’s not-so-thriving interior decorating business – was as an obituary writer for the local paper. It was a dream job for a journalism major who had only one college-level journalism class under her belt!
The entry-level job was a way to learn AP Style and get acquainted with the workings of a newsroom. I was promoted pretty quickly to a reporter – a fact of which I am proud to this day – but I was a little sad to see the obit job go. It might seem emotionally hard, but mostly in the obit business you are dealing with people who have lived good, long lives, whose time had simply come. (I won’t lie; writing about children and those taken too soon was never a treat.) It was actually fun and incredibly interesting to learn about the lives of the recently deceased, to see all of their achievements, to learn about important milestones in their lives and to see their long list of loved ones. It was frequently inspiring.
Our obit style was pretty regimented, most likely to keep word counts manageable and make sure everyone was treated fairly. We actually had a form we filled in that “wrote” the obit for us: Name of City died Date. He/She was Age-years-old.
The form went on like that through survivors, work history, organization memberships, volunteer work and other life achievements. It wasn’t terribly creative, but it got the job done.
This week, a friend of mine shared the obit of Harry Stamps, who sounds like a man we all should have known. You should definitely read it here. I love that you can really understand who Harry was from this obit. More than a list of his life accomplishments, it’s a true testament to his spirit, passions and personality. I am even inspired to write my congressman about Daylight Saving Time. Harry would want that.
It makes me laugh, too, that in my recent self-development work, I wrote a relationship vision. I named this man (who exists out there somewhere, but is as-yet-unknown to me) Harold because I don’t know anyone named Harold and I didn’t want some real-life dude mucking up my vision. I feel incredible kinship to Harry, who has a lot of characteristics in line with my Harold.
For many years now, I’ve thought I should write my own obit. For one, I’m not sure how many of you I trust to do it for me (and the ones I would trust would be crying too hard to see through their tears to write) and if I were to end up with “Name of City died Date. He/She was Age-years-old” I’d be really sad. While I don’t plan to die any time soon, who knows? Not me. However, I am certainly confronted with my mortality every two months or so when I visit my various doctors, who generally treat people much older than me. Somehow, it just makes good sense.
So, I’m not dying. Not planning on it. But I find Harry’s life inspirational, funny and endearing. It’s something to aspire to.
|Rosie at 118 after a skydiving trip.
Avon, Ind. — Rosie Blankenship, 118-year-old writer, skydiver and passionate fan of life, died today following an overindulgent New Year’s Eve.
Rosie was a the life of the party to the very end, dying in her sleep just hours after toasting the new year, shrieking Auld Lang Syne into a karaoke mic and dancing until 3 a.m. with friends and family at her lake home.
She was spry for her age and her mind was sharp as a tack. She found joy everyday. She frequently laughed in the face of danger and was quick to dismiss negative experiences in life. Following in the footsteps of her beloved grandmother, Victoria, she took up painting during her late 60s under the tutelage of her daughter, the world-renowned artist and brilliant scholar Colleen M, Ph.D, M.D., J.D. Having succeeded at that challenge, she later sought to be a skydiver in her mid-80s, a hobby for which she was avidly enthusiastic until her death. She founded the Central Indiana Rosie Skies Chapter of the National Skydivers Association. Her funeral will include an exhibition skydiving show.
As a young survivor of breast cancer, Rosie spent many years advocating for the worldwide eradication of chemical farming, cleaning up air and water sources and supporting holistic health services. Her work helped lead to the full-scale elimination of all cancers during the 2020s. Her own dedication to her own health and wellness helped her live to an average age for these times, rather than the shortened lifespan predicted in her younger years. She frequently flashed her fake breasts in public, saying, “what? They aren’t real!” Although she never lived in a nursing home, she often predicted she would have the greatest bosom in the place.
She was known for her incredible parties, bringing together people from all walks of life and usually firing up the karaoke machine. Her Two Buck Chuck, generic Ritz crackers and colby jack cheese parties were the stuff of legends.
Of course, she also brought the party with her. Her lifelong BFF would often say the two of them could have fun with a paper bag. She enjoyed going to rock concerts with friends well into her 90s and organized no less than 20 “flash mob” dances in her lifetime. She was addicted to Reese’s peanut butter cups and ate broccoli every day of her life, claiming this was a balanced diet. She had a lifelong love affair with jeans and t-shirts. Her campaign to fix the women’s jeans industry led to women being able to provide waist, hip and inseam measurements to obtain the perfect pair of jeans without ever trying one on.
While truly a pacifist, she once punched a man for pronouncing “specific” as “pacific” 28 times in a single conversation.
Her daughter was the brightest spot in her life. Among her many academic and professional achievements, Colleen was the source of four grandchildren for Rosie, 12 great-grandchildren and 40 great-great-grandchildren. Dozens in the family would gather for Sunday brunch at “Mama Rosie’s,” where they were treated to Rosie’s secret recipe pulled pork sandwiches, a recipe she developed herself for Tres Leches Cake and homemade dandelion wine.
She met the love of her life at 49, after a short affair with Colts punter Pat McAfee. Harold was an adventurer who was perfectly happy to come along for the ride of Rosie’s journey to squeeze the last drop of goodness out of life.
Rosie’s books inspired millions and brought Oprah out of retirement for multiple interviews. Writing on life, love and happiness, she poured her heart out for the world to see. She is frequently credited with her work helping others live full lives.
Rosie will be cremated with a tube of her Smashbox Be Legendary lipstick, which she never left the house without.
In lieu of sending flowers, Rosie asked people to go buy perennial flowers to beautify their yards or the yard of someone they love. “We create our own beauty,” she often said.