Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.
In July 1974, after Evel Knievel announced his plans to jump Snake River Canyon on a motorcycle, a reporter asked him if he had a death wish.
“Yeah,” the daredevil replied, “I want to die in bed with a beautiful woman when I’m 110 years old.”
Knievel never got his death wish: He actually died in Clearwater, Florida, on Nov. 30, 2007 at age 69, and, as far as I can tell, there’s no indication he was in bed with a beautiful woman when it happened.
The day after his demise, newspapers across the country ran his obituary.
Right about the time of Evel Knievel’s death, it became big news that the Associated Press had an obituary already in the can and ready to go for one particular singer. It’s common practice these days for newspapers to have obituaries on hand for celebrities, but it became a big deal that the AP already had the obituary for this singer because it was the first time anyone could recall that they had an obit written up and ready to go for someone under 30.
Can you guess who that was?
You’re exactly right – it was Britney back in her crazy shave-your-head and drive-with-your-baby-on-top-of-the-car days.
Britney made it through that dark time, but it’s never a good sign when you’re in your early 20s and the newspapers already have your obit written up.
On the other hand, you also don’t want the newspapers throwing something together at the last minute – especially if you die on a major holiday when the newsroom has been left in the hands of the administrative assistant and an intern.
In fact, nowadays, when a famous person is near death, the AP even goes ahead and sends out the obit to newspapers. Now, when they do, they also send out about 50 notices – probably in big red font – that say the obituary isn’t to be used until the person actually dies, but in some cases, newspapers end up printing the obits anyway. Wikipedia has a whole page on “premature obituaries.”
Now, for non-celebrities, the obituaries you read are ones that family members sent in to the local paper. One thing I don’t get about the News & Record is that they always put the obits in the “Life” section, which makes no sense whatsoever to me. It seems exactly where an obituary should NOT go – but far be it from me to attempt to tell the News & Record how to run their business.
If the family of the deceased doesn’t write an obituary and pay to have it in the News & Record, the paper will run a short death notice, but that’s all you get. They don’t write it for you. However, if you’ve achieved some sort of notoriety – good or bad – the News & Record might do a story on you and your death. So, if you’re well known, that might be something to worry about because it is not one of those things that the News & Record knows how to do. Death is just simply not their strong suit. Specifically, there are only four things they know how to write about:
(1) Rich Fork Preserve
(2) Coal Ash
(3) Murders and DUI’s in Rockingham County
So, if they do write a story on you, it might come out something along these lines …
Rhino Times scribe Scott D. Yost went to the great beyond on Thursday. Yost, who attended Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, never had a DUI in Rockingham County, nor was he ever accused of murder in that county.
The writer who worked as a stockbroker and an Elon philosophy teacher before entering journalism, defined himself as male and is said to have used male bathrooms for his entire life. The funeral will be held at Green Hill Cemetery, which is about 25 miles from Rich Fork Preserve and roughly100 miles from the closest Duke Energy coal ash spill …
Nobody wants their final memory to be written like that, so it hit me that it would be a good idea if we just all wrote our own obituary ahead of time. You know, if you want something done right, then do it yourself. Also, that way, you won’t be heaping that burden on your grieving family at the time of their great loss.
When you die, everything will already be done, and, also, you can control the message – something that politicians always remind us is absolutely critical to do. You know, if you write your own obit, you can point to your better qualities.
So, this week, I thought I’d go ahead and write mine and just put it out there for when it’s needed – which hopefully will be a very long time from now.
Here goes …
Scott Dayvault Yost, a native of Greensboro, NC, died peacefully at the age of 110 yesterday in bed with a beautiful woman. [This is just my placeholder for now – please insert actual circumstances after the fact if that is not how it went down.]
Yost, who became an award-winning horror writer at an early age and is considered something of a literary genius in France, did not have any children that he knew about. He was a well-known and much beloved columnist and reporter for the Rhino Times, a local weekly newspaper, and was considered by many to be something of a “local treasure” if you will.
Yost was married once but that did not end well, though the failure of the marriage was not his fault but instead was the fault of someone else who shall remain unnamed.
Former two-time North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt won reelection to the governor’s seat by defeating Yost in the 1996 gubernatorial election [I encourage you to look that up if you have your doubts]. However, Yost’s star did not burn out after that setback, and he went on to reach what is considered by many to be the pinnacle of his career – when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted to name a chair in the commissioners’ meeting room “The Scott Yost Chair” and mark said chair with an honorary plaque. (It should be noted that the board did so on a unanimous vote.) It is thought to be the only time in the history of the planet Earth that a board of commissioners has named a chair after a reporter.
Throughout his life, Yost was kind and loving toward others and small animals, with the notable exception of the mice who entered his home, which Yost captured in glue traps. And it was only after carefully considering other options that all seemed even less humane did Yost take the mice and …
OK, you know what? Writing your own obituary is more depressing than I imagined it would be. In fact, it’s kind of creepy, so I’m going to just stop there and let the News & Record fill in the rest.
But I do encourage you all to come to the funeral – you know, once I hit 110.