Here Lies…

Do you read obituaries?  I do.  The habit started in childhood with the “Milestones” section of Time Magazine and I’ve just kept it up.

But over time- like everything else- obituaries have changed.

Newspaper obits used to be straight forward.  The deceased’s name, dates of birth and death, spouses, children and siblings were mentioned.  They usually included the time and place of the funeral service and where to send to send flowers.  (Or not.)

That was about it.  Short and utilitarian.

But these days, an obituary seems to have tuned into some kind of Facebook posting- the printed equivalent of “the ego wall.”

Today there always seem to be the dearly departed’s flattering (and of course much younger) photograph.  And then there is the list of  fabulous lifetime accomplishments.  (The grandiosity most times in inverse proportion to reality.)

These overblown sentences reek of desperation as they strive to prove how truly special and fabulous and unique and gifted and talented and clever and successful and beloved the late lamented subject was.

And nowadays, people ALWAYS die surrounded by their weeping and devoted families.

Nobody, it seems, croaks in peace alone at two a.m. any more.

In many of today’s obits, I’ve spotted exaggerations, conflations of the truth, and outright lies.

Fake wives made out of mistresses, careers that have suddenly become distinguished, marriages that were notoriously contentious but now are shining examples of marital love and fidelity.


So in the new spirit of complete fabrication, this is the obituary that I want.

Caveat emptor.

The New York Times OBITUARIES Sunday, January 21, 2046

ROSS- Ellen
1949-2046. An epic woman. An epic life. Devoted wife of the late William for 60 years.  Passed away peacefully at her mountain-top eyrie in Aspen, Colorado surrounded by her loving children, daughter Natasha and son, Nicholas, grieving son-in-law Zach and daughter-in-law Melissa, and her distraught grandchildren, Sam, Caroline, Hendrix, Nora, Ben, Olimpia, Justin, Margaret, Anne and Harrison.

Ellen was an outstanding writer and won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Blogging.  But her true passion was her family.  She was dedicated to their happiness.  She could light up her grandchildren’s faces just by entering a room.

Her life was a shining example of loving kindness and a deep commitment to all mankind.

Ellen was also a Girl Scout Troop leader in her hometown of Winnetka, Illinois, former president of the A.S.P.C.A.   She was also on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum, M.O.M.A. the Lyric Opera and Ravinia.

She had been a co-chairwoman of the Red Cross Ball in Palm Beach, and was a member of the Bath and Tennis and Colony and Piping Rock Clubs.  She was Ladies Golf Champion at the Maidstone Club and also belonged to the Myopia Hunt.

Services were private but a public memorial will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. at a later date this spring.

Contributions in her honor may be made to St. George’s school of Newport, Rhode Island and the Audrey Hepburn Fund at U.N.I.C.E.F.

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13 Responses to Here Lies…

  1. Bernard Kerman says:

    What I find amazing is that they always die in alphabetical order!

  2. Dave sher says:

    Ellen… that obit reminded me of the Christmas letters I receive every year extolling all the wonderful things that occurred to the sender.
    Yours was as very funny… and observant.
    I have noticed that all the men’s obits include survived by his wife…. no matter how old the guy was at his death…just an observation.

    • Ellen Ross says:

      Thanks, Dave. You’re right about those bragging, egregious Christmas missives. And you’re right about the wives, too. Sorry but that’s a fact. The women usually outlast their spouses. Revenge, I think. 😊 Happy new year to you and yours. 🎉🥂

  3. Mitchell Klein says:

    A Cleveland Browns fans Last request-
    He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.

    • Ellen Ross says:

      Very nice, Mitch. Although sadly, I’m kind of sure this joke works just as well with a Chicago Bears fan, too. 🏈
      Thanks, buddy.

  4. Gary W says:

    Excellent Ellen! One of your very best. I may ask for your help sometime close to 2046

    • Ellen Ross says:

      Thanks, Gar. And you’ve got it. (But not before, okay?) Wishing you, your family and Tommy a very happy, healthy 2018.

  5. dear Ellen: Just let me know the address of the Washington Cathedral and the
    date of the Service… I will be there for sure … Oh, Oh, did you say 2046 ..
    Maybe I won’t be able to make it …
    But I will read about you endlessly and always especially when I have the time …And of course this is an appropriately long obituary. And am glad that you are still around to write it.
    Love, Joan

    • Ellen Ross says:

      My heirs will notify you as to the date. You’ll be there, Joan. My money’s on you. Thanks, my friend- and role model. You are the coolest kid on the block. ❤️😊🥂

  6. Susan Alexander says:

    Ellen, I particularly enjoyed this blog. I’ve been fascinated by obituaries in our local paper for some time, enough so that I’ve been tempted to start a scrapbook so show the trends over time. Maybe, I’ll start a word document and record some of the more interesting statements made in local obituaries.

    Our local obituaries tend to periodically go through different trends with what’s said in them. For example, since this is the middle of the bible belt, some obituaries always start out with how the deceased has now joined his or her god or lord, as if it were a long awaited achievement. I suspect for some it really is. Especially if their marriage “sucked” – ha ha….. 🙂

    As for marriages, the latest trend for many is to state the deceased married the love of his or her life. I often wonder how true this is for some of them and how faithful they were to the “love of their life.”

    I remember a woman who was a member of a service organization I belong to, telling me her husband, who had recently died of cancer, spent the last three months of his life apologizing to her for the shitty (my word) way he treated her during their 40 to 50 years of marriage.

    By the way, I loved your obituary. I always enjoy your humor.

    • Ellen Ross says:

      Your comment was fascinating, Susan. Thank you for introducing me to obits in the Bible Belt. And wow! Hypocrisy reigns there, too. Not just on the image-conscious North Shore. Good to know.
      Glad you enjoyed this one. It was fun to write.
      Thanks, my friend.

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