Just fling me over the fence

My first byline was an obituary. It was 1997 and I was working on the City Desk at the local paper. “We’re short an obit writer today,” the editor said. “Want to fill in?”

I no longer remember the name of the deceased. But I do remember having to write a correction for the following day’s paper, and having to explain to the managing editor why I misidentified a DC3 as a “jet.” Fortunately, my error was forgiven and writing obits became a regular Saturday-afternoon gig.

I got to write about a much-loved professor, a prominent businessman, and about Bill Seaman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer. I was nervous about Bill’s obit because lots of my colleagues still remembered him.

Anyway … I loved writing obits, so I was delighted when my friend Tom (aka, “The Blogfodder”) forwarded an article from the Utne Reader about — wait for it — being an obituary writer. One paragraph jumped out at me, in particular:

We are collecting the best ways to die. That sounds cynical, but it doesn’t feel that way. No one wants to rot away from cancer or keel over from heart failure. Those benign-sounding sisters, brief illness and long illness, are the most perverse because of what they aren’t saying, especially in this conservative corner of the Midwest. Drug addiction, mental illness, AIDS. We respect the death notices that tell the truth, even if we don’t usually publish them.

I didn’t write enough obits to collect any truly outlandish demises. But occasionally I would pause to meditate about how I wouldn’t want to die. “I at least want an interesting obituary,” I remember thinking.

So if you’ll forgive my macabre (dare I say sick?!) sense of humor, here are my top three choices of how I’d like to buy the farm/kick the bucket/join the choir eternal/insert your own euphemism — and my top three thoughts about what might happen after.

Manner of death, in no particular order:

I love (love, love!) Paris, so I wouldn’t really mind expiring in the City of Light — but I’d want to do with panache. Leaping off the Eiffel Tower in an haute-couture parachute-suit sounds just about right.

I’m also a bit of an Earth mother, so I think I’d enjoy croaking in the great outdoors. But none of this “got lost in the woods and died of exposure” stuff for me, please. Getting crushed to death in a revenge-attack by a cactus sounds more like my speed.

My third choice is being swashbuckled to death by Johnny Depp. I couldn’t find evidence that this has actually happened to anyone—but there’s a first time for everything. (Dear Johnny: Call me!)

Final wishes (again, in no particular order):

I’ve often joked with Esteban that I’d very much like him to build a small trebuchet and fling me over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. Their trash has been blowing into our yard for years, so it only seems polite to return the favor.

As a more socially acceptable (but far less Monty Python-like) alternative, I’d like to have my ashes scattered near Oscar Wilde and Frédéric Chopin in Paris’ Père Lachaise cemetery.

I wouldn’t object to burial, though, if it’s more convenient than the first two options. All I ask is that my tombstone carry this epitaph: “I knew this would happen.” And please set it in Comic Sans.

OK … That’s about enough of my grim humor for one day. I’ll be back tomorrow with a more lively topic. (Pardon the pun.)


  1. A friend of mine went to her great aunt’s funeral a while ago. The aunt had made all the arrangements herself right down to leaving the clothes she wanted to be buried in.
    Before the funeral everyone filed in to say they’r last goodbyes to find that the aunt had been to Blackpool and bought a funny hat for her last resting place.
    It said …


    • Thanks for a much-needed smile, Hallysann. In your honor, I hereby formally change my request: I want my tombstone to read “S*d off! I’m having a bad day!”

      Ha! 🙂

  2. Brilliant story! I’ve just changed my mind about my epitaph. “S*d off! I’m having a bad day!” it is. Thanks for the smile, Hallysann …

  3. You are one sick woman, you hear? I love it. The eiffel tower parachute guy and the death by cactus guy make me think of the Darwin Awards, beloved of bored office-workers everywhere.

    I bet you know that Spike Milligan wanted ‘I told you I was sick!’ on his gravestone. The local priest objected, so it was written in Irish.

    Please, though, not comic sans. Don’t do this to us. You know you’d regret it, and it would really get very boring hovering around your gravestone hoping to spook someone into changing it to Bleeding Cowboy or somesuch instead. (Thinks, Bleeding Cowboy would be just the thing for the cactus guy….) 😉

    • Yes, yes … I’m one sick woman. And I know you love it! (Just as I love you, and your Darwin Award reference! Wendy Northcutt’s books are among my favorite bedtime reading, sick puppy that I am. Grin.) Though I’d never heard the story about Spike Milligan. How funny — in a tragic sort of way. And OK: Just for you, I’ll rescind my Comic Sans request. I now want my tombstone to read “S•d off! I’m having a bad day!” (thanks to Hallysann) and I want it inscribed in Bleeding Cowboy. Or maybe in Tengwar Annatar. Or Fanjofey. Or … well — you decide! 🙂

  4. P.S. A bit slow off the mark today – just saw you were Freshly Pressed AGAIN! Eeep!! Congratulations, my famous friend, very well deserved! 🙂

    • Is there a button on the dashboard for “Please stop the fame”? That last Freshly Pressed was just training wheels. This time it’s *serious.* Heeeeellllllppppp!!!! 🙂

      • Deep breaths, sweetie, deep breaths. Remember your own wise words about fleeting fame from last time around.

        We’re here for you. (Oh, and can I get your autograph?!)

  5. Since I moved my blog I haven’t been able to comment (and I haven’t figured out why — I don’t have that problem on the other blogs that I read…hmmm.) SO, until I figure it out, I thought I’d go thru wordpress.com.
    Anyhoo, I do like the Eiffel Tower dive idea and S*d off sounds like something I’d have, if I wanted a conventional burial. I’m all for cremation and spreading my ashes over some ocean someplace.
    Seems you were FP again? Way to go! That is fabulous.

    Hope to fix the link soon,

    PS: I don’t think I have to tell you to have fun in Paris, do I?

    • Naw, Marcia … you don’t have to tell me to have fun in Paris. That’s pretty much a given! 🙂 Though I’m a bit bummed to hear about your commenting difficulties, since I’ve always enjoyed hearing from you. Where are you blogging these days? And have you uploaded any of those Paris posts you were promising? Inquiring (read: nosy) minds want to know! 🙂

  6. Pardon the pun but I’d like to kill two birds with one stone. The two things I dread about dying are (a) the idea that something great might happen after I’ve gone and I’d miss out on it; and (b) that I’d be soon forgotten and my life would thereby be rendered pointless. So with apologies to everyone, everywhere who might be alive when it happens, I’d like the world to come to an end and us all to end with it, simultaneously…but not too soon, if you don’t mind.

    • I’ve never thought about what a pity it would be to miss out on something really good because I’m dead. Thanks for the laugh!

      As for your being forgotten, no worries there: You are clearly loved by many. Plus, everything you’ve typed into the Internet will speak for you long after you’ve gone. (I hope you haven’t used too many naughty words. Ha!)

      And about the end of the world: I hear we’re scheduled for mass destruction in December 2012, if the Mayan-calendar believers are correct. I hope it’s something quick — like crashing into the sun — instead of something long and dreadful, like those interminable meteor-strikes-earth movies.

  7. I wish I had time to read all of the posts of bloggers I like. I love good humor and great writiing and you have the gift of both! I want a funeral pyre, but Mom says those are not allowed in the US. I am thinking of asking some Indians if they will help me out. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, theamberlight! And thanks too, for your creative suggestion of a funeral pyre … that one hadn’t even occurred to me. I hope you’re able to find some Indians who will be willing to help you out, when the time comes — but I also hope that time doesn’t come for a long, long … um, time. 🙂

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