Daniels, Elisabeth R.

As a kid, I remember my parents scanning (okay, they were reading) the obituaries listed in the newspaper. I didn’t think it odd as it was something they always did and was, in my child’s mind, “normal”. When I inquired as to why they did it, they responded with a jocular, “just making sure we’re still alive” and that was that.  I, too, am a scanner/reader of death notices.  Have been for as long as I can recall.  I’ve even been known to check them online.  Sounds creepy when I see it written, but I assure you, it is not.

That being said, I am immersed in this habit deeply enough to have a system. First I check the town in which I live, then my hometown and, finally, I scan for Jewish names. More often than not, I happen upon a familiar one: usually a parent or grandparent of a friend. Sometimes I have heard of the passing and seek out the announcement for the pertinent information, but more often than not, I just peruse without purpose. I’m not sure what I am looking for but assume it is my love of a good story that keeps me coming back for more.  Many (most, actually) stick to the basics and tell very little by way of a story but do serve to confirm that the name I am reading does indeed relate to someone in my world. I’ve seen them depressingly brief  and overwhelmingly detailed. None, however, has captured my interest as did this one:

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Interestingly, Elisabeth R. Daniels did not hail from either of “my” towns, nor was she Jewish. I’ve no recollection as to what made me read her obituary, but I did and, as you can see, went so far as to tear it out and save it (admission: it was on my fridge for a few days).   It is, without competition, the Best.Obituary.Ever.

We all hope to leave some sort of mark on the world, some kind of legacy which will serve to define us years after we are gone. I cannot speak for the masses, but would venture a guess that most (all) people hope that theirs is a positive, honest (assuming the two are not mutually exclusive) and, if we are really lucky, meaningful one. We were kind, or philanthropic, or funny or a trailblazer of some sort. Or perhaps we flew under the radar and made little impact other than to live quietly and not bother anyone. Most (all) of us would prefer not to be remembered for the time we behaved like an asshole or forgot to filter our words. Elisabeth was true to herself (and, so too, apparently, were her mother Sally and sister Dinah). I cannot help thinking that she sanctioned (and maybe even penned )the delightfully honest memorializing of herself. Talk about going out on your own terms. Have at it, Ms. Daniels!

Being honest with ourselves and knowing who we are can be totally awesome or can suck big time: sometimes all in the same day. Digging deep and owning the good, the bad and the ugly ain’t easy, but is it freeing, for sure.

I’ve always admired (envied maybe) the honesty with which Jess has lived her life. Like Elisabeth, she is a “unique creation” and I hope that (many, many, many) years down the road, when her legacy is being written it will be done so with the same love that Elisabeth’s has been.

I hope the same for Harrison. And, frankly, for me.

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8 thoughts on “Daniels, Elisabeth R.

  1. What a fantastic, wonderful tribute! I also wondered if Elisabeth might have written the whole thing herself. If not, then it was a loving partner or other close and adoring relative. It truly is the best obituary ever (asking for people to tip someone! Fabulous!). It makes you want to find out what Elisabeth was like and what life she lived! How her family remember her, what she got up to. I feel almost a bit jealous of the people who got to live with her, and with her mother, and her sister. Lucky people!
    Such a glorious thing to be able to say that you were unique. That has got to be my ambition though I might be a touch deluded about that.

    Btw, I thought of you today. I had my very first ever manicure. Can’t believe I left it so long. It wasn’t quite as relaxing as I expected but the hand massage was a welcome surprise. And my nails look rather nice now, I’m pleased to say. It’s lovely to have someone do a great job on something for you.

  2. phenomenal. Love this obituary and, as a regular obit reader myself (for all the same reasons and in the very same order as you) somehow missed it. Thanks for finding and for sharing it!

  3. Best obituary ever… And it does make you want to do something little for this unique lady we’ve never met. I am also a daily reader… I say it’s because I’m a nurse and I’m looking for my patients, but that’s just so it doesn’t creep people out 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this little gem.

  4. Hi, Julie

    I saw your post on Better After 50 – and the word “obituary” caught my eye. I, too, am a big fan of reading obituaries daily. I wrote my own blog post recently on them (see “farewell Fred” on my blog, http://www.wittyworriedandwolf.wordpress.com)

    And I confess to also looking for Jewish names.

    Probably more importantly is that I’m a mom of a young adult child who has always been different in many ways from the other kids. Your story resonates with me.

    I will look for you on twitter! Love your writing.

    Nancy Wolf
    @_nwolf

  5. Hi Julie, I have been reading your blog for some time. I am a high school teacher who wants to make sure all of my students feel accepted and so look for inspiring and insightful writing to help me figure out how to do it.

    Funny thing is my 16-year-old niece (now nephew of course) came out to the family as transgender a few months after I started reading your blog. I have so often thought that if only he had been able to tell his parents earlier then his transition could have been sooner and he might have not has to deal with menstruating and getting his breasts removed at 17.

    As I read this post, I thought that you might appreciate this dad’s attitude. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in your blog. Laurie Weckesser http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5578709?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

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