Saturday, 23 January 2016

Obituaries are

strange things.
I was sent a link to one yesterday. It was someone both the sender and I knew well, very well indeed. What, the sender asked me, did I make of it? I sent a message back saying "interesting".
Yes, it was interesting. Factually it was reasonably accurate - although it failed to mention two adopted children, one of whom died. 
And yes it mentioned her deceased husband but failed to say anything about the help he gave her career.
If someone had read me the obituary without mentioning any of the names I would not have been able to recognise the person being written about. 
She was described in glowing terms, a self-made woman of strength, courage and integrity, someone who was a delight to work with. If the article was to be believed her staff loved her and her family adored her.
The reality was rather different. She had strength? Yes. Courage? Yes, that too. Integrity? No. She undermined other people, played them off against one another. She used them for her own benefit and then discarded them.  She was arrogant and could be very cruel. She was not liked. People were afraid of her.
As each of her children left home they had less to do with her. She tried to control their choice of careers and relationships. Her son had not seen her for some years, her daughters saw her only sporadically. 
But, she did some good work and it was recognised as such. Her colleagues were always prepared to acknowledge that. 
Perhaps that is why such an obituary gets written? Is is because now only do we not wish to speak ill of the dead but because we do want to acknowledge the good people do?
I don't know. I was, I hope, polite but I never pretended to like her and she made it very clear she did not like me.  It would have worried me more but she treated almost everyone she knew in the same way.
In the end I suppose I felt sorry for her. She must have been lonely. It was probably why she continued to work. Her retirement was brief, brought on by the illness which caused her death. 
Perhaps it is just as well that obituaries are rarely completely honest. 

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