For My Dad
I just wrote my father’s obituary; the first obituary I have ever written.
Obituaries aren’t all that difficult to write, at first glance. Anyone who has read even a few knows what should be included: the basic facts of birthdates, education, family, work, major accomplishments. It’s the other parts of an obituary that are difficult, the things that go beyond these very pragmatic facts, the struggle to find words that at least partly convey who the person you loved really was.
We are not, any of us, merely the sum total of our public accomplishments. We are those thousands of small moments, of little kindnesses, the unspoken cocoon of safety offered to those we love, the small considerations. We are also the larger heroic moments of rescue and comfort and the feeling of a home that will never go away. My dad was an honest, intelligent, and public-spirited man whose accomplishments are many, in his community and his state. But more importantly, he was songs sung and games played and furniture built and quiet calm in the face of serious questions or difficult situations. He was a steadfast presence, and even in the last years when he no longer recognized his family, just his physical presence carried on that feeling of love. And what greater accomplishment is there, at the end of a life well-lived?