“Woe to those who start a blog for their words may live forever.”
That’s a pretty snappy quote for one I just made up, don’t you think?
It came to me as I’ve been considering the wisdom – or the folly – of regularly putting my thoughts out there for all to read.
The other night my husband and I attended a memorial service for a relative of a friend who died too young. The woman who died was in her 60’s, a highly regarded mental health professional, very active in her community and in her synagogue, known for her good deeds and exemplary behavior.
She received an unexpected diagnosis of a terminal illness and soon after started to blog which she kept up regularly until shortly before her death.
At her memorial service family members stood up at the front of the room, taking turns reading excerpts from her blog. She wrote beautifully about coming to terms with her illness, making peace with her impending death and learning to accept the care she received from those she had previously cared for.
Her words were elegant, deeply felt and often profound. I’d never met her, but came to know her through what she wrote. I was struck by how she remained larger than life through her writing (a cliché somehow appropriate here) – finding meaning in her world as it narrowed as she grew sicker and sicker.
There I sat in on a folding chair in the living room of my friend’s house hearing words from someone else’s blog – and realizing their power.
After the service ended, my husband hugged me – and whispered in my ear – “Don’t worry, at your funeral, we won’t read from your blog.”
Was I supposed to be reassured?
I know he meant it kindly. He rightly guessed, that as I was listening to the speakers read the blog excerpts, I was thinking about what I write and how lighthearted it often is. How no one would confuse me with a deep thinker – unlike the woman we were remembering at the memorial service.
Perhaps, if faced with the prospect of my own imminent death, my writing would take a turn towards the profound? More likely, however, I would be joking until the very end, putting off with humor what I would be afraid to face.
I am, as you may have guessed, the kind of person, who likes to laugh – loudly – at anything said at funerals that is remotely funny. I love it when family members and friends share humorous anecdotes about the person who died. Laughing breaks the tension, helps us cope with the loss.
And I come from a long line of funeral-laughers. At my paternal grandmother’s funeral – she of the sarcastic one-liner and critical eye – the rabbi lauded her as having a personality as sweet as the flower for which she was named – “Daisy”. My father, knowing his mother far better than the rabbi did, turned to me and whispered – “the rabbi never met my mother. sweet she was not.” Yes, I laughed aloud at my grandmother’s funeral. (Perhaps a possible title for my yet-to-be-written-autobiography?”)
Maybe I should have cautioned the students in my Blogging 101 class that the words they will write in their blogs-to-be might have unexpected permanence?
I loved teaching this workshop and in true Sally Field fashion, was touched by the appreciative notes my students sent me last week after the final class. A dose of humor while leading a Blogging 101 class is appropriate. And if when the words flow, the humor naturally flows with it, that is appropriate too.
Yet I am still thinking about the words I heard at the memorial service. No humor there. Perhaps looking towards death took the humor right out of her system. Or perhaps the woman who died wasn’t a very funny person to start with. Instead of being semi-envious of her ability to create meaning from the most serious of circumstances, I should just accept that we all cope in different ways with tragedy.
Still I hope my husband is right. That no one thinks it is a good idea to read out loud from my blog at my funeral or memorial service. But if they do, please laugh, loud and often if you happen to be in attendance. Think of me, floating away on a cloud somewhere, chuckling along with you.