I’ve been writing obits like people are going to stop dying soon. I actually really love it, as morbid as that might sound.
It’s a privilege to tell someone’s life story one last time, to have a person’s family trust you with that story. The first few times I wrote obits it was kind of mechanical. The relatives would tell me what I needed to know matter-of-fact-ly, and I would put those facts in order with a few quotes to break up the monotony. But the more I write these obits, the better I must be getting because recently they’ve become more emotional for the families. They’ll apologize, embarrassed by their emotion and I have to remind them how appreciative I am for their earnest responses. I sometimes don’t know what to say except “thank you for the opportunity to share your loved one’s life.” Each time I write one and send it to the source, I get a gorgeous email response. It’s a really rewarding beat.
Something I’ve become more aware of lately is how many people are with their partner for 50, 60 and (more often than you’d think) 70 years. I hope I am lucky enough to be with the person I love most in this world for 70 years. I look up to all the couples who have fought through the struggles and the hardship to make it that long together. So often I hear “they were my best friend” from the survivors. Of course, they’ll always tell me it wasn’t perfect. They had their fights, their bad times. But they never gave up on one another and reveled in their golden years together.
I’ve wondered: would I rather spend my life exploring alone — loving often but not long — or spend my life exploring with another person, sharing my story with one person who loves me unconditionally and unequivocally. I used to think I wanted the former because who would want to put themselves in that kind of danger and follow me around the world? I now know the latter is the life I want. When I come home from each adventure, I want to turn to this person and say, “well, that was fun. Where to next?”
These people are the lucky ones and we should all hope to love someone for 70 years. To have someone who spends a lifetime loving us, fighting for us.