The Last Word


Today I saw a new movie, The Last Word, which stars Shirley MacLaine as an older woman who wants to have her obituary written ahead of her death.  I wrote obituaries for my mother-in-law and my father, and updated my husband’s from his initial draft.  I have written my own for future use.  Death notices can vary regionally.  Here in Florida with so many retirees, military service is always indicated.  Where we lived before, obituaries often began with “So and so went to be with her Lord.”  (I’d love to be that sure!)

It feels disturbing to publish a newspaper notice which proclaims one’s loss and how others can jump in on the bandwagon of grief by attending services and/or making donations.  Yet it also seems so crucial to spell out achievements of the individual and note how much he was loved.

I attended the movie alone.  That is not new for me.  My first time was at age 30 and I felt so out-of-place to be in a theater by myself – especially when I spilled a diet Coke down the front of my white shirt!  Now it seems normal.  I like going with friends, but I do not pass up movies simply because I don’t have someone to go with me.

There have been times when well-meaning married women friends have suggested I meet another widow.  I resist.  The other widows may be wonderful women, but I have such a difficult time with being labeled “the widow Mary” and being pigeon-holed by my marital status.  Maybe if I was more open to the possibility I’d find a new friend who liked the same movies . . .

Since the fall I have been paddling with a local dragon boat club.  I like the women paddlers for their strength, vitality, friendliness – not for their marital categories.  They are married, single, divorced and even widowed.  Those statuses may change, but my regard for them will not.  I have been in all four categories and yet I remain “Mary.”  Maybe those should be my Last Words – “She stayed true to herself throughout her lifetime.”

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