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Writing dad’s obituary turned out to be a privilege

By Lashawnda K. Becoats

As the holidays approached this year, my stepmother called me with an unexpected request. She asked if I’d write my father’s obituary when I came home to visit.

During the phone call I got a little nervous. My father isn’t sick. He eats well, exercises and has a sense of humor that makes you laugh so hard you cry.

Why would I want to write about him being dead when he’s still so full of life?

As I begin to process her phone call I realized I wasn’t prepared to think about life without my father. He has always been a constant in my life, giving me advice and encouraging me to be my best. Her request challenged me to accept the fact he was getting older and wouldn’t be alive forever.

My stepmother is a planner who takes a methodical approach to everything. As the oldest child, I expect much of the responsibility of the arrangements would be mine.

She explained they want to make it easier for everyone by taking care of all the details so no one will have to worry.

I admire my stepmother and father. They’ve both made peace with the fact that they are getting older. Many people are not at ease with the thought of growing older and leaving their loved ones behind.

As I made plans to travel home for the holiday the idea of writing the obituary stayed in the back of my mind.

Would I be sad? Will my father be gloomy since he’d be sharing the experience with me? I was hoping I would be strong and not break down. I was hoping he’d maintain his easygoing nature.

On the afternoon we decided to work on the obituary, the family (including my daughters) sat together in the living room. At first I looked at my oldest daughter with uncertainty. I could tell my father was a little nervous. He didn’t sit down the whole time.

“What year did you graduate from high school?” I asked.

“I can’t remember,” he replied.

I was nervous, too, but decided to go into reporter mode to make questioning him easier. As he became more relaxed he began to answer the questions. He even joked about how all the girls were in love with him when he was in high school.

“Make sure to include that information as well,” he kidded. We laughed at his silliness as I continued to take notes. My stepmother smirked, then asked me to make sure I did not include that part.

In our two-hour chat, I found out a lot more about my father. All my life he’s boasted about his exceptional basketball skills and how he could have made it to the NBA. But he’d never told me before that he played baseball in school, too. I also didn’t know his nickname back in the day was “Chunky.” Daddy has always been as thin as a rail so I didn’t get that reference.

Both my parents told stories of old relatives whom I’d never heard of. I learned a bit of history about my grandfather who died when I was young. Daddy said to make sure everyone knows how much he loves fishing and hunting. I promised him I’d include that.

Although we were gathering the facts of his life for friends and family when he would no longer be here, it didn’t feel as creepy as I expected. Usually when we write about a deceased loved one we concentrate on the facts we think are important to tell. During this process my father got to tell his own story. It was a privilege to hear him reflect back on a life well lived.

Lashawnda Becoats is a certified life coach. Email: lbecoats@gmail.com.
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