Obituary Generator

I’ve started writing obituaries for fun in my spare time.

It’s almost Halloween in this, the year of the ongoing difficulty. Does the above statement really shock you?

I’ve become a little bit obsessed with their form and language. How do you even begin to conceive a form aimed at summing up somebody’s life, let alone do so in a way that it can be consumed in print by thousands of friends and strangers? It feels so dated, but then I suppose there’s nobody (yet) to lodge a complaint about the quality of their obituary.

So I started reading them. My friend Sean started to save me the obituary pages from the Irish Times, which he regularly purchased. Our relationship is such that he only barely rolled his eyes when I asked him to do so. Several weeks of reading their every gruesome detail has resulted in my extraction of the following formula for generating a generic obit. 

SURNAME, Firstname. (Address, formerly of Address) Date, [mood at time of death]1, circumstance at death2, [Present Particible Modifier + Noun] to Name3, {repeat as necessary} Removal from Location, Date and Time. 
~ Quote in Italics~

1 – (e.g. peacefully)
2 – (e.g. surrounded by…)
3 – (e.g. Loving carer to Mary, caring lover to Ignatio…)

The form of an obituary is simple and direct, but limited. It will never truly capture either the essence of a person’s life, or the immensity of their absence from it. It is, on the other hand, a near-classic and under-utilised structure in the realm of literature. I hereby set about to change that.

Headstones, of course, are famed for their brevity…

Now, not to make light of death during a global pandemic, but but I think there are two ways in which we can view this formula.

  1. As an outdated and limiting form, from which true expression of the instance of loss cannot possibly be captured, or would be inappropriate to do so.
  2. As a classic form which, when applied creatively, opens up the possibility for wider experimental use in literature.

“Please stop now before you ruin our day” I hear you cry! Too late. Let me give unrequested examples of each.

Example One

MCGIMPY, Patrick. (Cork Road, Tipperary, formerly of Tipperary Road, Cork). September 19, 2020, screaming with resolute fury, surrounded by so-called friends whom he never truly cared for. Over-achieving brother to Patricia, Padraig, and Pablo. Disappointing son to Patricia snr. and Patrick snr. Imagined acquaintance to the author of this obituary. Removal from his own arse, September 20, 8pm.
~You Never Truly Lose Those Who Never Existed~

Example Two

MUG, Ceramic “I Hate Mondays” Garfield. Second cupboard from the left, formerly of the third cupboard from the right. September 19, 2020, tragically in a microwave induced hand slipping incident. Beloved of Christopher. Coveted by Johnny and Mike. Derided by Aisling and Katie. Removal to the Black Bin sometime tomorrow, if it stops raining.
~I Hate Saturdays Now Too~

There might be something entertaining in it. I’ll keep messing around with it if I get the chance before reaching my own, natural, conclusion…

Happy Halloween!



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