How many words does it need to really write the story of another? Several weeks ago, on 25th June, my father Kevin Whalan died. Last week was the funeral. My brother and sister as well as myself gave eulogies. And now for the hard part : I’ve been tasked with writing his obituary for the local paper.
How do you really write the life of another? Will 400 or so words really cover his life? In truth, neither eulogy nor funeral notice nor Dad’s autobiography fully recorded his life. Truly an obituary has no chance.
I could write first the family tree record: name, birth date, father and mother’s names, brother and sisters, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters up to great grandchildren and beyond.
Or secondly, all the jobs he held including his church, community and political service. Together all in all that would be like a resume. And yet these details need to be written.
Or thirdly, I could write of his experiences. Some were recounted in his blog, others in his autobiography or some in a video interview I made with him. One concerns the story of an unreliable witness picking him out as a murder suspect (Dad was a court reporter at the time). Another Or when he was sacked for refusing to reveal a source. Or standing against his friend for Parliament.
Or lastly I could write of all the people he met, befriended, helped, some of whom helped him above and beyond. Although gathering that latter would be impossible. Obviously, time would preempt any possible contact and besides Dad wouldn’t reveal his sources.
Or better yet, his character : his honesty, his integrity, his faith (including his doubts), his quirky sense of humour, his innate curiosity and ingenuity and his secret compassion to serve others.
Perhaps the best obituary is a living one.
But here is mine Kevin Whalan Obituary (Andrew Whalan).