Rewriting the Obits

My husband and his beloved Gram. 1985.

My family recently suffered a great loss. My husband’s grandmother, Grandma Theresa, was the center of the Scalisi family. She was the anchor that kept all the generations of family scattered across the country, so closely linked.

Every Sunday for decades, Grandma Theresa held an open invitation for a traditional Italian dinner to all members of the family, or anyone who just happened to be walking by and smelled her cooking (literally, neighbors wandered in off the street with their own to-go containers). She was also a skilled gardener, and enjoyed spending time outdoors, soaking up the sun and tending to her plants. Having grown up on a farm in Sicily, she was an incredibly hard worker. Still, she had a calming, almost healing effect on those around her. Hundreds of people gathered in her honor on her funeral day, each with their own story about how this great woman touched their lives.

This tiny superwoman, who stood about 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighed in at less than 100 pounds, was one of the most powerful and influential women I’ve ever known.

I’m not talking about power in its common use of the word; this has nothing to do with education, affluence or social privilege because she had none of those things. The power she wielded was in her ability to make a positive impact on so many lives, simply through love. Love poured from her hands into every delicious meal she prepared and infused her words with each captivating story about the old country. It radiated from her heart, into the hearts of so many others, and left a major void in each of those hearts when she passed.

This experience started me thinking about the farewell words we choose to write about our loved ones when they leave this world.

Typically, we come up with a highlight reel of accomplishments, focusing on education, job history and surviving family members. While these are important aspects of our lives, they don’t fully capture the essence of who we are, or the legacy we want to leave behind. We weren’t put on this earth to merely grow up, graduate, work and die so why do these milestones receive so much attention when it’s time for our final sendoff?

Maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper and talk about how people lived their lives and the contributions they made that nourished other souls during their time here.

Which brings up questions I hadn’t really thought about before: how would I want to be remembered? Am I actually living in parallel with those thoughts? Although uncomfortable to contemplate, this may be something we should all spend time exploring.

We are our most powerful when we’re living as our authentic selves. This means doing what we’re passionate about and sharing our gifts, which creates a stirring in others’ souls. No, my Masters degree and years logged in the IT industry would not make the cut if I had the opportunity to write my own tribute. Although it may not sound quite as impressive by some standards, I’d much rather go on the books as someone who loved helping others to heal, spending time in nature, enjoying family, and eating pasta. What do you love to do or would you love to do more of? Think about all the positive impacts you make by simply living your passions. It’s no coincidence these will be the things most missed about us when we’re gone (no one will be mourning the loss of my software development skills, I can promise you that).

This is not meant to be a knock against those who are proud of their education and work history; they are valuable accomplishments, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve received in this regard; I don’t take them for granted. This is more about breaking away from the typical obituary format that we blindly follow, simply because that’s how it’s always been done. We need to lose the perception that unless we’ve accomplished things that have been recognized by the multitudes, they are not worth noting. This is simply not true. Mother Theresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” We are all sacred beings, each with our own calling that needs to be heard.

So, how would you like your obituary to read?

With Much Love,


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