My writing prompt for today is to write the first sentence of your obituary. Or rather, the first sentence of my obituary. And before this all seems utterly morbid, I dunno.. there’s also something brilliant about it. Because really, who gets to write their own death speech? Hmm, so let’s see,
Gina Damarley D… Phillip was..
I have no idea. Probably that’s why someone else gets to do it. But if I had any choice in the matter, I’d want something much like this.
“I’m a good person but a shitty writer. You’re a shitty person but a good writer. We’d make a good team. I don’t want to ask you for any favours, but if you have time- and from what I saw, you have plenty- I was wondering if you could write a eulogy for Hazel. I’ve got notes and everything, but if you could just make it into a coherent whole or whatever? Or even just tell me what I should say differently. Here’s the thing about Hazel: Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death. We all want to be remembered. I do, too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease. I want to leave a mark. But Van Houten: The marks humans leave are too often scars. (Okay maybe I’m not such a shitty writer. But I can’t pull my ideas together, Van Houten. My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.) Hazel is different. She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we are not likely to do either. People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad, Van Houten it’s triumphant. It’s heroic. After my PET scan lit up, I snuck into the ICU and saw her while she was unconscious. I walked in behind the nurse and got to sit next to her for like ten minutes before I got caught. I really thought she was going to die before I could tell her that I was going to die, too. I just held her hand and tried to imagine a world without us and for about one second I was a good enough person to hope she died so she would never know that I was going, too. But then I wanted more time so we could fall in love. I got my wish, I suppose. I left my scar. What else? She is so beautiful. You don’t get tired of looking at her. You never worry if she is smarter than you: You know she is. She is funny without ever being mean. I love her. I am so lucky to love her. You don’t get to choose the ones you hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.”*
If you’ve never read the book or seen the movie, then *spoiler alert* the above is actually written by a boy who has died, for the girl he loved, who is still alive. And it comes in the form of a letter which she reads after his funeral. Depressing shit, really. But in a way, this is his mark. She is his mark, or rather the way he feels about her is. And in turn, he is hers. You see, you can travel the world, experience a multitude of things and become the best person that you want to be and yet ultimately all that will be felt from you after you’re gone, is the way that you made others feel. That is your influence in life. That is your mark or your scar. That is what you leave behind. That will be the point of your obituary.
I don’t think it matters that mine is based off what’s been written by and for imaginary characters to engender a plot. To me, it still speaks to a feeling felt by us all, that is anything but imaginary. A feeling that whether widely or deeply, is still felt. And your obituary becomes more than a narration of events but a story retold to those you’ve left behind of your marks and scars. More than the facts of your life, but rather the feeling of a life gone but still lived and so not really gone at all.
I have always believed that funerals are for the living. That corpse they’ve got sitting in the box over there is now hollow and that which embodied it, which gave it life, and gave you a loved one is no longer contained in such stringent confines. It is though the only way we know how to say goodbye. But, even if you never write your own obituary, or plan your own funeral, your mark will still be there. Your influence on the universe would and will always be felt through the production of something you loved or the loss felt by those who loved you.
And I don’t think I need anything greatly loquacious for the first sentence of my obituary..
“I lived, I loved and I was loved and, I will miss you too.”
*Excerpt from The Fault In Our Stars by John Green