By Kerri Westenberg
When a family friend recently passed away, my mind went in a million disjointed directions, a bit like my broken heart. But it eventually landed, soothingly, on memories we shared.
I remember the time he returned to our vacation rental in Rome, his lips ringed with the chocolate gelato he had eaten on a walk all while carrying on a serious and passionate conversation with his colleagues back in the States. When he hung up, we all laughed at the absurdity: here was this the child-like joy of gelato juxtaposed with the very grown-up work of a lawyer. But the moment highlights our friend’s essence: his tireless work as a consumer rights lawyer, his love of good food, his total gusto for life that sent him out to the beautiful streets of Rome even as he worked.
Our friend’s obituary laid out the basics of his life — his birth and death dates, his family, his degree from law school — but it lacked the inescapable soulfulness of his life that so naturally comes through in stories told by friends. It wasn’t a bad obituary. But the truth is, it fell to the same tendencies most end-of-life summations do: it was brief, factual and restrained.
After hearing from other grieving friends, it’s clear that the stories of a person’s life, even little moments (especially the little moments really), are what help convey a person’s spirit. It is the stories that make loved ones smile through tears.
So let’s write obituaries with wild abandon, ringing with joyful memories, telling moments and, yes, tales of slightly absurd moments. That’s life. And we should bring it with when someone passes.
That’s the real strength of Epilogg. An Epilogg is more than an online obituary and more than an impersonal how-to template. It is an invitation to share stories so that a community of loved ones can add to the memories and share the stories that, together, can begin to convey a person’s complex, multi-layered and beloved soul.
That kind of collective storytelling is a gift, both to the deceased and to those of us who remain.