Published On: Tue, Jun 21st, 2022

How will My Kids Memorialize Me?


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This originally ran in How We Dad Now. You can read the other stories in the package here, as well as in our Summer 2022 issue.


My father died this March after a long struggle with COPD. He would either cut up or cringe at the thought of a copy-paste job on a funeral home’s website still stuck in 1998, so the morning after he died, I asked the funeral director if I could write his obituary. The look on his face said I was being a pain in the ass. He needed it by the end of the afternoon. Sweet. I had a few hours to answer a question usually saved for decades on a shrink’s lounger: How will I remember my father?

I went to a coffee shop and stared at a screen for a long time. Can’t stress this enough—he’d died about eighteen hours before then. No matter how prepared you are, there’s an immediate shell shock. My brain was grief-mush. In that state, trying to pour a life into a couple paragraphs feels like trying to etch the plot of The Godfather into stone off the top of your head. It’s your favorite story. Probably the best one, from where you’re standing. But what you’re writing is permanent and you’re never, ever going to get it all right from memory. I read about a dozen shitty examples, right down to the existentially terrifying WikiHow entry, until I realized it was impossible. So I wrote about who Dad was on his best day. I wrote about his smile, “the one he’d get when he was about to start cutting up.” I laid out what you’d do with my father if you spent a day with him: drive to get a hoagie, ABBA on the radio, go home and laugh at a movie. I figured that if a stranger could get a sense of him from reading it, then maybe Dad would be proud.

I’ve gotta say, though—I blacked out in that coffee shop. So reading his obituary now is like reading nothing else. I don’t think the words are mine, or even of me. It’s him, he’s there, living and breathing on that shitty website more than he is in the graveyard of a Polish church. I reread it, again and again, until he animates.

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