Is there a new trend coming down the memorial pike? An “obitchuary” instead of the time-honored obituary? A recent obit gone viral brings up a sensitive and sorrowful issue. It has been a customary habit to use the obituary and eulogy as a kind of loving public memorial to those recently departed, somehow based on the philosophy that a person has a right to be remembered by his or her best act. In other words, love letters.
A good obituary can be one of the best expressions of affection, a remembrance of all the finest qualities and achievements of a person who is no longer with us. Does a person deserve to be remembered by his or her best act even when it is embedded in a life of cruelty? Do people have a right to expect this? Times change, and now in an age of admirably high regard for truth, it is no secret that sometimes the details of that truth border on TMI.
Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick’s children’s hate filled obituary has gone viral. So the story goes, they took the occasion of her death to spill the beans about the negligence, abuses and torments inflicted not only on her children but on everyone she met, lamenting her “violence, criminal activity, vulgarity and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.” They wished her an eternity of “reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children.”
Word has it that they did not do this to shame her but as an appeal to fight child abuse. This obituary seems more than this; it has the feel of an understandably pitiable way for the helpless to have the last well-deserved word to a relentless tormenter. Maybe it was measureless relief at sadism ended, a celebration of freedom from torture. Ding-dong the witch is dead, notwithstanding, is an obituary the place for revenge? Will it help others?
It is one of our great societal stains that child abuse and bullying go unattended all too often, and maybe the threat of a vindictive obituary will stand as a warning to parents who are less than they should be. But for depraved, emotionally ill parents or guardians who may be unable to help themselves, this obituary will surely not serve as warning.
We can only hope that children of such abuse will be lovingly encouraged to speak up and get help, to be rescued by adults who through love will foster trust and teach empathy so that when the day comes, an obituary can be one of compassion instead of hatred.
From me to you with love in the air,
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