"Final say" was a clue for a longish word in last Friday's NYTImes Crossword puzzle. Having just lost my mother-in-law, I immedately filled in the word "obituary". It wasn't the right answer but that's pretty much the only thing that came to our minds as Mark and I worked on the puzzle together. He had just finished sending out his mom's obit to newspapers in the communities where she spent most of her years. And that's after he pulled together the obit text with input, corrections and polishing by his siblings.
I started reading obits as a regular habit, like reading any other part of the newspaper, years ago. I have a file filed with obits of interesting, sometimes famous folks, like jockey and mystery writer Dick Francis; activists Phil Berrigan and Dave Dellinger; the last survivor of the Triangle Fire and the last soldier present at the "Christmas Truce" of 1914.
I wrote the obituaries for both of my parents when they died. It's a strange, sad and yet, in some ways, satisfying experience. A last task we do for those who spent so many years doing everything for us. In the few weeks since my mother-in-law fell ill, I've been touched, amazed and amused by the stories of these good women whose obits have appeared locally.
Patricia Delores Watkins: Her daughter Leslie shared this photo of the two of them on her FB page. I think it perfectly captures her mother who I'd met once or twice. Reading her story I realized how little I knew about her — and how much I wanted to share what I'd just learned.
Alice Corcoran Yost: I don't think I've ever read an obit where I got such a strong sense of individuality and personality as this one. As a gardener and party-giver, I wish I'd met Alice. I just wouldn't want my garden too near her house.
Maxine O'Brien Golbach: As I said before, she was the perfect mother-in-law; loving and supportive but never interfering.
As Alice Corcoran Yost's obituary noted, "Alice's light shone bright, and we are grateful she shined on us." I think that's true of all these women. Those of us who knew them or only met them through these last words will hold their memory in our hearts.
. . .
And that crossword answer for "Final say?" Veto power.