Please Consider These Edits to My Obituary, by Zachary Clark


Dear family,

First, I want to thank you all for writing my obituary. It’s a truly thoughtful and moving first draft, a great start. I just have a few changes for you to consider that I’m sure will make my obituary even stronger. They’re mostly minor edits, so this shouldn’t take much re-writing.

First paragraph: “Loving husband, proud father” is a nice but somewhat generic introduction. What if we put the lines about my career first? No offense, but fathers are rather common, and award-winning authors, such as myself, are not. I’m just thinking of ways to make this obituary stick out from the pack.

The next line: “died peacefully in his sleep,” is just not true. There’s nothing peaceful about pulmonary arterial hypertension disease. Can I suggest something a little more forceful? For example: “After a hard-fought battle with the disease, Arnold finally met his maker.”

My book titles should be italicized, not in quotes. Can you leave out the collection of short stories? It got mixed reviews, and frankly, I’d rather not be remembered by what was clearly not my best work.

Second paragraph: When you say “unfailingly kind, generous, and warm…” Why not add “sharp and insightful”? And maybe say something about how contagious my enthusiasm for literature was.

We don’t need to say “working knowledge of French and Spanish.” Let’s just keep it simple and say: “Arnold spoke French and Spanish.” Feel free to say “fluent.”

“But his greatest passion was the outdoors. He loved camping, hiking, fishing, often accompanied by his loyal dog, Skip.” Let’s take out the mention of Skip. You know I never liked that little yap dog and it only came camping with us once. I put up with that thing for years; please don’t foist it on my obituary, too.

It’s “pulmonary arterial hypertension disorder” not “Arterial Hypertension Disorder.” We don’t capitalize diseases if they’re not named after a region or someone’s name.

Second to last paragraph: “He was a loyal member and strong supporter of the California Conservation Organization.” Maybe just tone down the language here? I canceled my membership 10 years ago. And they’ve been really obnoxious about soliciting non-stop for contributions. Let’s just take that part out altogether.

Are you really going to use that photo? Let’s go with that photo of me receiving the award for my last novel—the one where I’m wearing that really nice tan blazer that fits me perfectly. Maybe include an image of the cover of the book as well?

Wouldn’t it be fun to include something at the end about how I saved you all from that house fire we had years ago? Just leave out specifics and you shouldn’t feel like it’s that much of a stretch.

Those are my thoughts for now. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Just have fun with it! (When’s the deadline on this, by the way?)

Affectionately,

Arnold

Zachary Clark is a writer living in San Francisco. He tweets here.

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