Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, November 11, 2011

"In Memorium": Who is the best person for the job?

“It seemed, however, everyone loved a good obit....”

When I read those words in a novel I am currently reading, I had to pause. Recently, a cousin died and I wrote a poem honoring his memory. I’d done the same thing when another cousin had died, and I’d done the same thing even for when my dogs have died. (As well as dogs who shared a home with human companions.)

But I have not just written poems about people I knew – and I barely knew that first cousin I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I also wrote poems honoring those who died on 9/11, those who were killed at Columbine, those who were shot at another school massacre as well as Princess Diana and Michael Landon. I did not know any of these people, but I wrote those poems because I felt moved to write something to honor their memory with. I also did the same thing when a friend of a friend died in a bicycle accident.

I did not know them, but something moved me to write those poems. I don’t know what. When I wrote that poem for the cousin, I worried I’d get backlash from those who were closer to him, and who knew him better than I did. The one other cousin I shared this with did not react that way, but I still felt maybe the others were wondering why I was even writing that poem. After all, I don’t even remember even meeting this cousin in person, or hearing stories about him. But I just wrote the poem, anyway.

And those words in that novel affected me, because on that same day, I was struggling with this. I just stopped myself and asked, Who am I to write these poems? I was not there. I didn’t know those people or that person. How could I possibly capture the essence of someone in a poem meant to honor them if I didn’t even know them?

And it’s interesting that it was a sentence about obits that gave me pause about this. At some point in the near future, I am planning to take ALL of those poems and put them into a poetry manuscript, one which I am actually going to title “Obits.” I got the idea for this a long time ago when a friend complained that the obits in a newspaper hardly capture what a person was REALLY like. What kind of person he/she REALLY was. I have read some obits of people I knew where the obits hardly did their memory any justice, and others of people I did not know that were actually very powerful writing. So I thought, what if we did find a way to write about how a person REALLY was? There’s got to be something better to honor their memory with. I thought a poem would do just that.

All the same, I did not set out to write these types of poems with that intention. Basically, I was so moved by someone’s death that I wrote the poem. When I wrote those poems in memory of Princess Diana or Michael Landon, it’s because I was moved to do so. It wasn’t because I thought it was a great way to honor their memory or, gee, this will look good in a poetry book! I just wanted to write those poems. I was compelled to write them.

And I still want to include them all in that book.

When this book comes out and people see these poems, I hope the relatives and friends of the people I wrote about will not think I tried to put myself on their level just to get a poem out of it. I hope they won’t think I was trying to benefit off of someone’s death or tragedy, or that I’m trying to make myself look like I KNEW those people when I didn’t or have the authority to write such words. My words are my own. They are words that came from my heart and soul during a time of sadness and a time of saying goodbye. They are just words that I felt compelled to write.

If people cannot understand that, or appreciate that, I still hope that in some way, at the very least, the poems will bring them comfort, maybe even a bit of peace. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone and some animal we have loved. It’s so hard to let someone near to our heart go away from us forever. Poems are just one way to help us heal through our grief. And, I hope, they can also be one way to remember someone in a positive and loving light.

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2 Comments:

  • At 1:05 AM , Anonymous LIllie Ammann said...

    Dawn,
    I wrote a lot of obits for funeral bulletins during the many years I published the bulletin for our church. Usually I knew the person because our church is not large. However, whether or not I knew the deceased, I always spoke with family members and asked them to tell me about their loved one so I could capture the essence of that person in a short obituary.

     
  • At 8:36 AM , Blogger Dawn Colclasure said...

    Thank you for sharing that with me, Lillie. I am glad you made that effort and the obits you wrote probably meant a lot to the people who were close to the deceased. I have no idea how an obit writer works and what they do to create their obits -- I was once told they have someone fill out a form about the deceased -- but that one comment my friend made is what sparked the idea for the poetry book. And, anyway, the title is near enough appropriate given the poems' content.

     

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