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We make a difference in the lives around us

Updated: April 25, 2013 6:19AM



Finding samples of deathless prose in an obituary sounds contradictory and unlikely. But I am dead sure I found some in the final sendoff of a fellow named Larry Vincent down in Fort Myers, Fla.

I knew it was a winner when the first paragraph said he died at 2 a.m. “because he never did anything at a decent hour.”

Poking fun, gently deriding him seemed to fit perfectly, little waves of levity there in the river of love that flavored the obituary, taking some of the sting from the sorrow at losing a man who touched his family and friends.

That wonderful obit tells us that when this fellow’s wife said they should become foster parents, he agreed on one condition: he would never have to take girls to the bathroom. He relented, happily I gathered.

An unusual obituary? Sure, but in that chunk of southwest Florida, unusual is usual. Like the red tide that leaves dead manatees on the beaches, where there is a worrisome plethora of pythons, where snowbirds from the north help outlet stores shout “amen” and folks go nuts over the two big league spring training places.

Why not some loving levity in a death notice? If it is in good taste and helps to define a departed one’s life, why not?

Reading this obituary of a guy I did not know reminded me that personal, private, fun memories of people who were close may stay with us longer than the sorrow over their departure.

If we try, just by the way we live, maybe our obituaries, written or not, will include smiles, happy memories that will outlast the tears. It would mean that we made a difference, a high calling for us all.

A few years ago, I said a few brief words at the memorial service for a friend, and I chose the easy way out for me — I recounted an anecdote about him, and people laughed. One of the family thanked me for adding some humor to a solemn occasion. She did not know that I express love that way better than in solemn declarations. I will not forget that in times of sorrow, there can be a balm of healing in memories that make us smile.

My friend and I had shared some laughs, private memories, and I have not forgotten. When I remember little things like that, I smile.

This fellow in Florida made a difference in his own way, as we all can.

On my recent birthday occasion (I forget the age part) a reader from Hobart sent a happy birthday email greeting that included the words to that great “Happy Birthday” song. I answered that she hit all of the notes right. Of course, that is a little smiley memory for both of us. I will take that one with me. I remember the song that says little things mean a lot. We should cherish those little things that touch us.

In one of the finishing laps in my race through life, I remember reading that people may not remember just what you said or exactly what you did, but they will not forget how you made them feel.

Laughter is wonderful medicine, but so are some of the solemn moments that touch us all. Like this story about an aging woman who called a cab. “I am going to a hospice,” she told the driver. She asked him to drive around past her old school and other familiar places. When they arrived, she hugged him and said “You brought me joy tonight.”

He never forgot that. She knew how he had touched her, but not how she had touched him. But he knew and was never the same.

From loving levity or deep sorrow or in touching people by the way we treat them, we can make a difference, writing our obits every day.



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