Friday, January 24, 2014

*The End.

"And they lived happily ever after.  THE END."

Oh, good grief.  How many teachers cringe when students turn in a hastily scrawled "story" with a weak beginning, a missing middle, and this lovely ending?  This was one of the hardest things for me to teach in first grade, and then later, in fifth grade.

Boys and girls, when one tires of writing, one does not simply write "THE END" to bring closure to the story, the essay, or the report.  We set it aside, we revisit it, and we write until the story as been told, the essay is complete, or the report has all of the important facts. 

Currently, I am participating in My 500 Words with Jeff Goins, a group of writers on Facebook who have taken on the challenge to write 500 words, every single day.  Originally, our goal was to write for 31 days in January, but most of us plan to continue to "fight the good fight," and carry on, for who knows how long.  Here is our assignment for Day 23 (Yes, it's the 24th; I'm a day late. Get over it.  I have.)  
Day 23: Write the End

Whether you're writing a novel, planning out your autobiography, or working on a short piece of nonfiction, forget about all the details and begin with the most important part: the end. 

 Think ahead of how you want this thing to wrap up. What do you want the reader to walk away with? What's the big idea or one-liner you want people to remember forever? 

 Start with that, and when you've got 500 words, you can go back and fill in the rest. 

Well, unlike many in the group, I have no project, and I am not writing a novel. I blog. I blog about whatever I want, whenever I want, as often as I want. There is no big picture; no end game. The title, Randomocity, lets me off the hook of needing any of THAT stuff. I post recipes, memories, rants, my favorite photographs,  poetry; whatever strikes my fancy. I don't feel compelled to write about the prompts in My 500 Words, but I try to utilize most of them, and it has been so rewarding to step out of my comfort zone, and rise to the challenge.  Hmmm..."Write the End."

And then it hit me. I could write MY end. My obituary. How do I want this thing, my life, to wrap up? What is the one thing about me I want people to remember forever? What will MY end game look like?

Now don't think me morbid; I feel that this is a wonderful exercise. It brought to mind the poem called "The Dash" by Linda Ellis.  She writes of a man speaking at the funeral of his friend. Here is a snippet of the poem, in case you haven't read it.
​I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.
She reminds us that what matters most about the dates on the tombstone is not the day we were born or the day that we die, it's the "dash." My dash will hopefully look something like this:  1960-2041. What can I say? I like even numbers, and 2041 will have me seeing my eightieth birthday.  The loved ones who passed away in their seventies seem to have gone too soon, so I hope to make it to 80. Yeah, I think 80 years of living should give me enough time to do all the things I hope to do with my dash.

What will MY obituary look like?  What will people remember about me? I have given this some thought. Allow me to share something with you that most of you don't know about me.

I have a "happy box." At first, I had a smallish metal tin, a Mary Engelbreit tin, given to me by a very dear friend. It was perfect, at first, because it was the happiest looking box I'd ever seen, decorated so cheerfully by my favorite modern day artist, and it was just large enough to hold the mementos of my life that had brought me such joy. After awhile, my little tin box could not hold all of my little treasures, so I purchased a larger, leather box to contain the overflow.

My boxes keep safe the handwritten notes from my children, thank-you notes from students at school, silly cartoons, a ski lift ticket from Eagle Point, mementos from The Phantom of the Opera, Mother's Day cards, photographs of my babies, wedding invitations. Well, you get the picture. And there is an obituary; an obituary of a complete stranger. I have kept this yellowed newspaper clipping for almost 20 years.

Yes, I am curious about obituaries. Each week, as I would scan the local paper, I would first look to see if there were anyone I knew. My heart would ache for parents who lost a child. (My greatest fear is outliving any of my children.) I would feel sad for the widows and widowers. And I was always curious about what was mentioned.

The businessmen and businesswomen always had lists of their affiliations with various organizations in the community. Positions of leadership were posted. Church membership was often mentioned.

And then I saw her. A lady not much older than I am right now, smiling at me in her black and white photograph, carefully selected by loved ones. Her obituary was so different from any I'd read.

There were twelve short paragraphs, summing up a life cut short by cancer. She was "61 years young," the article stated. The picture showed a woman with a full head of wavy, grey hair in a sensible short style. Her eyes twinkled, and her smile was warm and friendly.  I wanted to know more about her.

There was no mention of business, church, or local organizations, but what I learned of her was that she was honest, and that her family loved her, and they would miss her.

She "was an expert horsewoman, an accomplished artist and pianist, a lover of music and all things beautiful. She loved all creatures great and small (except spiders), and always cared for any animal in need. [She] lived life with gusto, even to the end. She has taught us so much, and will be forever in our hearts and our dreams."

Every time I read this little clipping, I ponder my own life. How have I treated others? What legacy am I leaving for my loved ones? What will be said of me when I am gone? Will my former students say I loved them, and taught them more than the curriculum? Will my children know they are the biggest part of my heart? Will my loved ones and friends feel a sense of loss when I am not there to show them how much I love them?

And so, my friends, I decided to write my own obituary. (I hope my surviving parents are okay with my assuming that they may have passed on by this time in the future, as I don't think any of them has any notion to live past 100.)

Monroe, Utah

Denise Ann Beidler Bennorth died of natural causes, March 15, 2041 at her humble home in Joseph, Utah, surrounded by loved ones.  She lived her life with courage until the very end.  She was 80 years young.

She was born November 18, 1960, in Chicago, Illinois to Neil Roger and Joan Engelhard Beidler. Her parents moved to Virginia, where she grew up in the counties of Amherst and Nelson, until she went to Utah to earn her bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University in elementary education.She later earned her master’s degree in gifted and talented education at Utah State University. After living in San Diego for awhile, she returned to Sevier County in Utah, saying that was where her heart was.

Denise lived every day to the fullest, and never let an opportunity for compassionate service pass her by. Her days were spent in the company of family and friends, and she enjoyed photography, hiking, skiing, biking, baking, and, most of all, being with her family and friends. When she retired from teaching fifth grade, she always spoke with fondness about her career, but never regretted retiring after thirty years. She always said that she gave those kids everything she had while she was teaching, and she loved every minute of it, but she was ready to try something new.  

She was a published author, making the New York Times Bestsellers’ List with her memoir entitled, Randomocity. She wrote a blog by the same name, which she began the year she retired. She enjoyed fostering dogs for the local animal shelter, and was actively involved as a volunteer at the local preschool and the assisted living center. Bennorth Photography began as a non-profit, offering photography to groups and individuals who may not otherwise afford it.

Of all of her accomplishments, being a mother was the one constant that brought her happiness all of her adult life. She always felt that she was blessed by her children, and later in life, her sweet Chuck. She and Chuck were husband and wife, best friends, and business partners. 

She is survived by her husband, their children and their companions, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents and stepparents.

A celebration of her life will be held at her home.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you make a donation to the charity of your choice.


  1. Love this. Love your dash. Great post, wonderful woman. Happy dashing, Denise. xxxx

    1. Thank you! Is this Liane from Happier? Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Bravo...I think everyone should write their obituary. I've always looked at the obituaries and I have a thing for cemeteries (but then again I might be morbid). Love it!

    1. As the one who just wrote her own obituary, I am not the one to sit in judgment on your morbidity. ;-)


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