Over the past few weeks the media has bemoaned the loss of Farah Fawcett’s hair, Ed McMahon’s laugh, Billy Mays’ OxiBeard, Michael Jackson’s noses and what was left of Sarah Palin’s credibility.
However, the death I found the most heartbreaking during the same time period was that of a woman who received little, if any, mention anywhere other than her obituary in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (http://obits.cleveland.com/obituaries/cleveland/obituary.aspx?n=nancy-lee-hixson&;pid=129179739). I didn’t know Nancy Lee Hixson, yet more so than any of the aforementioned recently deceased (with the exception of Michael Jackson’s nose, circa 1985), I wish I had.
After all, a woman saucy and cunning enough to have the final say on her life (excerpted below) would undoubtedly have been someone with whom I would have enjoyed a few quality hours:
“Nancy Lee Hixson of Danville, Ohio died at sunrise on June 30, 2009. In addition to being a teetotaling mother and an indifferent housekeeper, she was a board certified naturopath specializing in poisonous and medicinal plants; but she would like to point out, posthumously, that although it did occur to her, she never spiked anyone’s tea. Her homemade cider and wine were reputed to cause sudden stupor. She opened her home to many children of poverty … raising several of them to successful, if unwilling, adulthood. She also enjoyed a long life of unmentionable adventures and confessed she had been a rebellious teen-aged library clerk, an untalented college student on scholarship, a run-away hippie, a stoic Sunday school teacher … an expert rifleman [and] a wife once or twice. In short, she did all things enthusiastically, but nothing well. In lieu of flowers, please pray for the Constitution of the United States.”
Her 802-word magnum opus-tuary inspired me to prepare my own in the event that someone with an insufficient appreciation for the significance of my life is left to do it after my demise:
Meredith Cohen Carroll passed away (fill in the date) peacefully in her sleep after overdosing on red wine and “Sex and the City” reruns. She is survived by her husband (who has spent the time since her death happily not making the bed and leaving the bath mat on the floor), a never-used 40GB iPod and her long-suffering parents, who can hopefully get a good night’s sleep at long last now that they don’t have to lie awake wondering what she’s gotten herself into this time.
When she was 5, Meredith starred as Fern in “Charlotte’s Web” at the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck, N.Y. And while she was proud to have played the Blue Fairy in Mrs. Feltenstein’s third-grade class’ production of “Pinocchio,” she minded a little that she had actually been up for the part of Geppetto but was callously passed over because she couldn’t sing on key. Fortunately the sting of rejection, or her voice, didn’t preclude her from going on to play the Artful Dodger in Mr. Fischer’s fifth-grade-class production of “Oliver” and then the starring role in “Annie” in sixth grade.
She lived life to its fullest when it was a convenient excuse to avoid work or anything else resembling responsibility. She was not nearly as clever and bright as she told others she was, but thinks everyone should still remember her as thin and charitable. Meredith spent most of her free time surfing trashy celebrity news Web sites because someone has to read about Britney Spears’ daily trips to Starbucks, otherwise the terrorists win.
She completed six marathons, and not once because anyone was chasing her. She had a guinea pig named Bubble Gum when she was 4, a parakeet named Mozart when she was 12, a dog named Roxanne who left us way too soon, and two uninvited mice in her first apartment that met their maker at the hands of the building’s superintendent.
Meredith once passed up a piece of warm chocolate cake for something called a Butterscotch Budino, and that marked the final time she ever consumed anything with sugar that didn’t have cocoa listed as the first ingredient.
Her guilty pleasures included reading Us magazine every week, although she didn’t actually feel guilty about it. And Meredith would like to finally admit posthumously to never once having understood “Doonesbury” or anything that ever appeared in The New Yorker.
In lieu of one-off bouquets of flowers, please adorn her grave with tulips in the spring, peonies in the summer, asters in the fall, a thoughtfully-carved pumpkin in October and something expensive, hard-to-find and nearly-impossible to maintain in the winter. Oh, and please install a heating lamp over her grave in the winter, too. Now that she’s dead, she has officially stopped pretending to like cold weather.
E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.