Two lives, summed up in words

Earlier in the week I ran across this essay David Sedaris wrote about the death of his sister Tiffany. In it, he and his four surviving siblings try to make sense of her life and her suicide.

I have since found what is, in essence, his sister’s rebuttal to him written in 2004. Equally fascinating.

Yesterday I read another obituary that tried to make sense of someone’s life. This one is for Erin Wagman of Rapid City. It was printed in the Rapid City Journal, but I’m sharing the funeral home link because I was struck by some of the comments left on the site.

People who didn’t know Wagman’s surviving family thought it was an appropriate time to condemn them for their honesty. That’s because the obituary starts like this “Erin Wagman, also known as Erin Borgmann, died of acute alcohol poisoning on October 19, 2013 in Rapid City. She was 42 years old. She died alone.”

It also includes this: “Surely Erin’s descent into alcoholism happened incrementally, but most of us witnessed just the four final years, the point at which she had fallen so deep that she couldn’t be reached. Like that independent toddler, Erin did alcoholism her way, and along the path—tragedy after tragedy and crisis after crisis—her strength never wavered. She was an optimistic drunk, a drunk with hopes and dreams, a drunk that was going to make it. She hoped someday to write a book about her recovery.”

Some commenters thought that was uncaring. I actually thought there was a lot of love and reflection showed in the words shared. There is, for example, this statement “For her new, 18-year-old mother, she was a handful—precocious, bossy, cranky—and unusually independent for a tyke who still wore diapers.” Doesn’t that sound like her mother has blamed herself over the years?

When I worked at the Daily Globe in Worthington, my co-workers and I once wrote our own obituaries. We were very frank in our assessments of our lives and what had impacted us. We also were very young. Would I be as frank now? I hope so. So maybe I should write my own obituary again. Not for publication, necessarily, but to put things in perspective for me.

And if my nieces and nephews want to write a “warts and all” obituary when I’m gone, they have my blessing.