A smallish news article may have escaped your notice last week. It didn’t show up in many newspapers. In a four pager, it would have landed on page five. But it caught a friend’s notice and she sent it on to me saying, “This sounds like something you’d find interesting.” A compliment? Perhaps not. But she was right.
In a town not far from Atlantic City, N.J. called Egg Harbor Township, a fellow named Leroy ‘Blast’ Bill Black passed away a couple of weeks ago. The newspaper in Atlantic City dutifully published his obituary. In fact, there were two obituaries for him—appearing one on top of the other.
But it was not an accidental double printing. It was two different obits: one by “Blast’s” wife—and the other…by his girlfriend.
The newspaper decided that instead of fighting with the two women—who were already sad enough—they would just publish both versions.
The differences between the two obituaries are not very noticeable. Except that in the wife’s version, she is referred to as Mr. Black’s “loving wife.” The other obit mentions his “longtime girlfriend.”
And it is only in the girlfriend’s version that Mr. Black’s nickname “Blast” is included. No explanation for it is offered. Perhaps he loved dynamite.
But the idea of printing two—or even more—versions of obituaries is intriguing. After all, no one observes anything—be it colors, music, politics, you-name-it—in the same way. And, just as surely, no one views his or her fellow humans in quite the same light.
If he’s on your team, an outspoken athlete is fabulous. But to a fan of another team, he’s the biggest loudmouth on the planet.
To some, Lincoln was our greatest president—but to others, he was just a tall guy with a beard who enjoyed live theater.
There are those who might think that when a local hero rescues an annoying kid from a well, he should get a medal. Others might be rooting for the well.
That’s why when each person’s story is written—or at least his or her obituary—more than one point of view might provide a clearer picture.
What follows is a completely invented example of such dueling obituaries—that when combined, might shed light on a fictitious fellow we’ll call Phil Zogginwheeler:
FROM HIS WIFE: “Phil ‘The Sneak’ Zogginwheeler—married for 27 years to his loving, faithful wife, Helen—died on Tuesday at the age of 55 when, wearing only underpants, he fell three stories out of another woman’s apartment window.”
FROM HIS GIRLFRIEND: “Phil ‘Sweet lips’ Zogginwheeler died on Tuesday at the age of what seemed like 35—while leaving the apartment of the love of his life, Rita Muldoon. He was forced to make the fatal exit when he saw another woman—he never loved—coming up the apartment stairs yelling at him and waving what appeared to be a tire iron.”
WIFE: “Zogginwheeler, an unemployed musician, leaves behind Helen—who agreed to marry him instead of Earl Clankfelder, her high school boyfriend. Clankfeder, retired software CEO, currently travels by yacht from his six homes around the world. “
GIRLFRIEND: “Zogginwheeler was enjoying a surprise birthday party from his girlfriend Rita when the accident occurred.”
WIFE: “Zoggenwheeler’s wife Helen was about to surprise him when he leapt out the apartment window.”
GIRLFRIEND: “Mr. Zogginwheeler was the most romantic person ever—he loved long walks on the beach, a nice glass of wine and evenings under the moonlight.”
WIFE: “He enjoyed spending hours wandering around the beach with his metal detector—always also knocking back three or four bottles of Carlo Rossi. He spent most nights out in the yard sleeping it off.”
GIRLFRIEND: “In recent weeks, Mr. Zoggenwheeler proudly displayed a new tattoo shaped like a rose—along with the words ‘To My Pretty Rita, She’s My Little Sweet-a!’ He loved showing it off when not clothed.”
WIFE: “In recent weeks he was gone on business a lot—rather surprising since he hadn’t worked in six years. However his loving wife, Helen, dutifully kept house and took care of the bills while he was away—including three from a place called “Skin Ink, Inc!”
GIRLFRIEND: “He always did things for others—like his girlfriend Rita, who’ll always remember him for the gorgeous jewelry, beautiful flowers, romantic nights and wonderful vacation trips.
WIFE: “His wife Helen will always remember him for the things he did for others.”
GIRLFRIEND: “Funeral services will be at Willoughby’s Funeral Home at 2 pm, Friday. He will later be cremated.”
WIFE: “Funeral services will be at Willoughby’s Funeral Home at 2 pm, Friday.
Then he’ll be set on fire.”