Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Art of Obituary Writing

This comes from an obituary in the Anchorage Daily News on page A8, Thursday, March 17, 2011:
Mike Lawless, 59, died March 2, 2011, at his home in Two Rivers. . .\ He was one of those unforgettable characters who was unlike anyone else, with his charisma, intelligence, quick wit, and unmistakable crooked smile. All will remember Mike as a kind, loyal and generous friend who was always willing to lend a helping hand.

He was a man of his word, strong in both body and mind and never allowed any hurdles to keep him from his objectives. He loved to "chew the fat." Mike was intelligent and well-read and fed his mind with knowledge of all kinds. Mike was a true patriot with a passion for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Mike was a devoted father. He considered his children his legacy and was thrilled each time a new grandchild was born.

He is survived by his siblings, Hosanna (Dixie) Lee and Katt Pinette; wife, Rose; children, Ira, Tiffany, Melissa, Jackson, Nathan, Marie, Bernadette, Jeanne, Antonia and Blair; many precious grandchildren; niece, Bethany Bogart; nephew, Daniel Lahaie; and his loyal dog, Kobuk, who was with him until the end.
Pretty standard obituary fare.   But the name sounded familiar.  I went back to page 3 to a story I'd just read:
FAIRBANKS -- A 19-year-old Alaska man has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in the death of his father.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that Blair Lawless is being held on $1 million bail in the death last month of his 59-year-old father, Melvin "Mike" Lawless, at his Two Rivers home near Fairbanks.  .  .

Blair Lawless also faces charges of vehicle theft and tampering with evidence. He was arrested March 2 in Anchorage, after a day-long manhunt following his indictment on the murder charge.

I realize that for obituaries people tend to say nice things about the dead.  I think it should be possible to find things you can say without violating the truth.  Take this line from the obituary:
All will remember Mike as a kind, loyal and generous friend who was always willing to lend a helping hand.
 Apparently not all.  Even if his son Blair is not guilty, somebody apparently murdered him.  Someone who probably has a different view of the deceased.

I'm always a bit curious when no cause of death is listed or someone dies of 'natural causes' at age 45.  There was another obituary the same day with a unique cause of death.
Palmer resident Nick Charles Stachelrodt, 45, died unexpectedly March 12, 2011, in Ketchikan while protecting his parents.

I don't mean to make light of the situation in either case.  Two people have died and left behind people who will miss them.  And I decided to hold this post for 30 days  before pushing the publish button. 

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