Obituaries are a bluesy reality in our business. Wrapping up a person’s existance - sometimes a century, sometimes only hours - in a half a dozen paragraphs.
Grieving families do their best, but it’s just not possible to capture the essence of a life in a couple of hundred hastily assembled words. Or so I thought.
Who was his first love? What did she think about when she looked at the stars? What were their dreams? We know they died, but how and why did they live?
The frustration for me as a newspaper editor is the lost stories. On at least a weekly basis I find out something amazing about someone in our community - from their obituary, when it’s too late to ask all the questions that flood to mind.
He survived being a prisoner of war. She was a test pilot. He was a filmaker long ago, she was a sculptor, he was a refugee, she was a great athlete; they were present for some momentous historic event.
There are people here I’ve known for decades, only I didn’t. Not fully. By the time we read it in the obituary, it’s interecting, but the first-hand of it is gone.
Don’t miss any more opportunities, if you can help it. Don’t put off getting to know people at a deeper level, assuming there will always be another day to ask those questions. Learn those stories about the people you care about, and share your own. Write them down.
The very nature of obituaries tends to follow a standard formula. So-and-so died on fill-in-the-date due to fill-in-the-cause. The funeral will be held on such-and-such-date. He or she was born on fill-in-the-blank. Schooling, jobs, marriage, survivors (why do we call them that? Sounds like they swam off the Titanic).
The best of it is usually a little paragraph near the end, where we learn that they loved the Cubs or the Hawkeyes, that they had a favorite show, maybe they were kind to dogs or made quilts or carved little cowboys out of soap - it’s not the what that mattered, it is that a little flavor of a life is preserved. That someone cared enough to notice.
I’ve often thought that people should write their own obituaries. Who else knows them better? We generally attend to things like life insurance and wills and where to dump our bones, but it would be considered odd to attend to the words that we will be remembered by.
My new hero of this concept passed away recently, and left this, which ran as his official obituary in the Omaha World Herald on Feb. 11. I kid you not. I didn’t know him, but now I do. We should all live and die so colorfully.
The great star lord, Adam Lee Malnove, departed this realm waving his cowboy hat while riding a neon green meteor across the midwest headed for the cosmos early in the morning on February 6, 2017. He assures us that he was warmly received by the celestial beings that travelled before him and were awaiting his arrival: his most beloved protectors grandma Jackie Malnove, Abe and Annie Magzamin, Betty and Bill De Roos, Todd Monk, and many friends he made along the way.
He leaves his Malnove dynasty and legacy here on this earth for us all to enjoy in his beautiful children Aidan “Shnee the invincible,” Anna “Pants, queen of the mermaids,” and Oliver “L.B. the junior star lord.” His greatest mentor, father figure, and the man he appreciated the most in this lifetime Paul Malnove is who Adam attributes his savvy nature, “don’t work harder, think smarter” mindset, and is eternally grateful for every second they were able to spend together. Adam takes great comfort knowing that he will be able to personally welcome his team of loved ones into the beyond someday in the very distant future.
Adam asks for us all to rally together to cheer on his mother supermodel sweetheart and earth angel Susan Malnove, tender hearted rogue adventurer father Jan De Roos, his cherished aunt and uncle Nancy and Bill Malnove (as well as cousin Ashley), slightly dim witted but very lovable younger brother Will De Roos, Elsa Mars impersonator younger sister Alison Walker (as well as her superhero hockey star husband Christopher Walker, niece Charlie Walker the hula dancing animal talker, and nephew Robert Staples Walker IV his battle bot buddy), British intelligence 007 and superman enthusiast brother in law Christopher O’Kane, Adam’s minuscule of a fractal better looking and female clone. ... the other half of his heart little sister Kitty O’Kane (and nephews that he loved like they were his own: Ty “the protégé and infamous couch snuggler” O’Kane, Alex “suplex” O’Kane, and the only person that was allowed to “fire” Adam on a weekly basis Jack O’Kane). Star Lord wishes to acknowledge his precious surrogate grandmother that loved him like her own, and it was reciprocated ten fold, Jean Schmitz, our world famous karaoke singer and world renown ballroom dancer. Nene De Roos, thank you for always trying to impart your advice and love whenever possible. Special thanks to all who welcomed Adam into their hearts and family, gave the greatest gift of friendship, spent time exchanging stories, and love life as much as he does.
Adam greatly enjoyed and highly recommends: floating in the ocean to clear your thoughts, listening to Pink Floyd and owning at least one of their t-shirts, running ahead to open doors for the elderly, trying new foods, walking around a box factory and listening to the hum of the machines, always supporting your favorite local restaurants and stores, being a room mom, giving people your undivided attention, talking to and treating a cab driver or bus boy the same as you would a celebrity, getting dressed up and eating a reasonable amount of candy on his birthday aka Halloween, creating your own magic and celebrating for no apparent reason, learning through traveling, riding rollercoasters, becoming a master of whatever you put your mind to accomplishing, watching other people garden because it might make you want to try it too, planning for the worst but expecting the best, letting people know that bees are more deadly than sharks, being vigilant because super heroes don’t always wear capes, splurging to get the “good seats” at concerts, focusing on making memories instead of focusing on accumulating stuff, enabling good behavior in others, owning and reading as many books as possible, taking time to watch the snow fall, and always using the children in his life as a moral compass to rule and guide his thoughts and actions. A private celebration will be announced and held for family and friends. Adam is love in motion, all things good personified, a devoted and fiercely loyal father and friend, he saved us all. Never pass up a chance to do the right thing and be the good in the world. His story is to be continued ...