Stella Jones Wrote Her Own Obituary
"I found this in Mom's things," Eileen wrote to her brother. "I thought you would want it." Included with the letter was a hand written obituary for Stella Mae Jones who had died about a year past. Eileen was busy cleaning out her mother's house. There was a lot to go through, so it's no wonder that Stella's final words weren't found until it was too late.
Stella came from a long line of hoarders, a trait that was passed down through her descendants as well. There were boxes of recipes and poems clipped from the newspaper. There were years of cards, saved because of the love they held inside. There were rolls of bank receipts, report cards, nail files, a piece of leather marked with a tag that said "Grandpa's razor strap," and a small box of tiny baby teeth. These were her treasures, and the treasures of several of her ancestors passed down to generations who had too much heart to throw them away. Myself included.
One thing is clear, as I sit here surrounded by Stella's things, many of them over 100 years old, is that Stella was a proud, Romantic with a flair for the dramatic. She wrote her own obituary. It was probably to save her children the anguish of writing one in the midst of their grief and to make sure that all of the facts were straight.
What a wonderful idea she had. Writing an obituary is a heart wrenching process. How do you wrap up the years lived, the personality, the love for your family member in just a few short paragraphs. It's the very last way to honor them. And unlike a eulogy that is said in one moment, gone in the next, an obituary lasts the ages, poured over by genealogists like myself.
In Stella's obituary, she included the things that were important to her. She brags about her family, her accomplishments and even includes a poem on her children's behalf expressing their deep grief over her loss. Truth be told, it makes me chuckle. It's very long and would have cost a fortune in newspaper space.
After spending hours looking through Stella's treasures, and reading her letters, and newspaper clippings, I feel like I know her, this proud, eccentric woman, this devoted mother, this adoring grandmother, who died before I was born. I can't think of anyone better to write her obituary than Stella, herself.
What would you include in your obituary? Would you be modest? Would you be honest? Will you start writing yours today?