Never do this

When I was editing obituaries, I used to have to sit with the original form submitted by the family, and make sure everything in the story matched what was written in pen by the bereaved.

It was an extra big deal to make sure obituaries were accurate. To this end, I had to call survivors, even on anything the family itself may have written wrong.

One night I was doing the math to make sure the birth and death dates made the lady 90, when I realized both dates were the same, but with different years. If she was 90, it was only for a few hours.

It would be an easy mistake for a grieving son to write the death date on both lines absent-mindedly.

The family said, “Yep. It was her 90th birthday.”

Oh no. “Were you with her?” It was OK for me to be nosy. At least, I always told myself that.

“Yes, she died at her birthday party.”

I scanned the form. She died of a heart attack.

Good Lord, they couldn’t be that stupid.

I had to ask. “Was it a surprise party?”

I’m of a firm mind it’s wrong to startle the tar out of old people.

He hung up on me, which was fortunate, because I was crass enough to fall into a fit of laughter.



4 Responses to “Never do this”

  1. Noisy Quiet Says:

    Oh no! :oO

    (I haven’t even laughed yet. My mouth is still hanging open!)

  2. Fred Bauman Says:

    Several years ago we covered an old codger’s 100th birthday party at an old folks home. The reporter was Mary Wallace, a fairly chubby, overly endowed young lady. When they wheeled the guy out in a wheelchair for the interview Mary asked him to what he attributed his longevity. The nurse pushing the wheelchair told Mary that the man is very deaf and that she would have to lean over and talk into his ear. As Mary complied the old fart reached out and grabbed both of her breasts yelling “THIS IS MY LUCKY DAY!” It was quite a surprise party — for the reporter!

  3. gunky Says:

    my husband has been told explicitly that a surprise party in my honor is a marriage breaker.
    i’d die of embarrassment!

  4. T. Says:

    I’m with you. I think they take away the best part: the looking forward to it.

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