Chapter 9 of Life is a Verb includes a section entitled "Live an Irresistible Obituary." Today I found out exactly what that means, when my friends Betsy Hilt and Joan Eisenstodt pointed me to an obituary from the Cleveland newspaper for a woman named Nancy Lee Hixson. That's what I'm talking about. Now THAT's an obituary to be proud of. Read the whole thing, all of it, no paragraph breaks and all:
Nancy Lee HIXSON
(NANCY) LEE HIXSON of Danville, Ohio died at sunrise on June 30, 2009. She was born Nancy Lee Wood in Cleveland on April 17, 1944, baptised at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Valley City Ohio, and confirmed at St. John's Lutheran Church, Independence Ohio. In addition to being a teetotaling mother and an indifferent housekeeper, she was a board certified naturopath specializing in poisonous and medicinal plants; but she would like to point out, posthumously, that although it did occur to her, she never spiked anyone's tea. She often volunteered as an ombudsman to help disadvantaged teens find college funding and early opened her home to many children of poverty, raising several of them to successful, if unwilling, adulthood. She also enjoyed a long life of unmentionable adventures and confessed she had been a rebellious teen-aged library clerk, an untalented college student on scholarship, a run-away Hippie, a stoic Sunday School teacher, a Brownie leader, a Grange lecturer, an expert rifleman, a waitress, a wife once or twice, a welder, an artist, and a writer. She was in earlier years the president of Rainbow Systems Trucking Company, Peninsula Ohio, and she drove tractor-trailers over-the-road hauling freight commodities to startled customers from Minnesota to Florida. She was the CEO of the Cuyahoga Valley Center of Outdoor Leadership Training (COLT), where she lived in a remote and tiny one-room cabin in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Despite the lack of cabin space and dining table, she often served holiday dinners to friends and relatives and could seat twenty at the bed. She lived the last twenty-three years at Winter Spring Farm near Danville where she built a private Stonehenge, and planted and helped save from extinction nearly 50 varieties of antique apple trees, many listed in A.J. Downing's famous orchard guide of 1859 – among them such delicacies as Summer Sweet Pearmain, Sops of Wine, Westfield Seek No Further, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Her homemade cider and wine were reputed to cause sudden stupor. She befriended countless stray dogs, cats, horses, and the occasional goat. She was a nemesis to hunters, and an activist of unpopular, but just, causes. In short, she did all things enthusiastically, but nothing well. After moving to Danville, she bravely suffered with a severe and disabling disorder and a ten-year battle with lymphoma that ultimately took her life. She was often confined to the home where she continued to tirelessly volunteer and donate her limited resources to needy teens in the area, always cheered by their small and large achievements. Sympathy and big donations may be extended at this time. She was predeceased by her father Dwight Edward Wood of the Ohio pioneer Wood family of Byhalia, who died in the Columbus Jail having been accused of a dreadful crime, and by her second father Ted A. Cznadel of Danville who adopted her, loved her and raised her despite it all. She is survived by her dearly beloved son, her heart and soul and every breath, Christopher Daniel Hixson of Akron, (a sterling citizen who rose above his murky childhood with a scandalous mother), and by his loving partner Mitchell Kahan. She is also survived by her mother, the opinionated and stubborn Ann Gall Cznadel; by her brother the Rev. Dr. Thomas R. Sluberski, a Lutheran minister and professor, most recently of Rio de Janeiro; by her gentle, ecological brother Gregory T. Cznadel, a quality manager of Cleveland; by her talented sister Linda R. Cznadel Hauck, a librarian from sea to shining sea, of San Luis Obispo; by her genius nephew and godson Matthew Hauck of Minneapolis; and the other half of her heart, her patient friend and backstairs lover of thirty years, David Paul Bleifus who resides at the farm. Ms. Hixson traced her lineage directly through eleven generations to Governor William Bradford of the ship Mayflower and the Plimouth Colony, and was in the process of membership to The Mayflower Society. She was a long-time card carrying member of the ACLU, the Democratic Party, and of MENSA. The family wishes to thank Dr. Gene Morris for his care, understanding and sense of humor through it all; Dr. Paul Masci of Cleveland Clinic Wooster; and Dr. Skip Radwany and the nursing staff of the Palliative Care Center at Summa for their compassion as Lee shuffled off this mortal coil. Cremation has taken place. Immediate family and friends will gather at Stonehenge on a sunny summer day to celebrate her life. Interment is in the family plot at Brinkhaven Hilltop Cemetery in Brinkhaven, Ohio, where she will await an eventual and probable slide down the cliff to the Mohican River below. In lieu of flowers, please pray for the Constitution of the United States. "Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store)…" – Walt Whitman
How about writing your own? "Where she will await an eventual and probably slide down the cliff to the Mohican River below." Just think of all the fun you can have describing your family members ("genius nephew," "gentle, ecological brother," "opinionated and stubborn mother," "her patient friend and backstairs lover of thirty years").
What would your obituary look like? What would you like it to look like?