Michael “Flathead” Blanchard’s obituary in last week’s Denver Post was less than flattering.


“Weary of reading obituaries noting someone’s courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctor’s orders and raising hell for more than six decades,” it read. “He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.”

Flathead’s memorial service, held on April 14, had a “no children under 18” policy due to the amount of “adult material” contained in the service.

While his obituary was undeniably unconventional, it was also unashamedly proud - a true celebration of the man he was, rather than the man others wanted him to be. It honoured his decadence, paid tribute to his unapologetic nature and glorified his stubborn devotion to his chosen path.

Most of us would be lucky to be remembered in this way after death - to have strangers read that our family loved us because of our flaws, not in spite of them. Sometimes, the moments that define us are the ones we hide from our children and purge from the record - the nights of recklessness and days of decay.

There will never be anyone like you (unless you live in the future and fail to defeat your clone in a battle to the death and he lives in your home with your wife and uses all your stuff.)

And no one, they say, is perfect - with the exception of teenage pheromone robots One Direction, who were reverse-engineered from Justin Bieber’s first and only chest hair and raised by select episodes of Hannah Montana.

Obituaries should reflect this universal truth. Of course, there is no wrong way to celebrate someone’s life - for any celebration of life is, by it’s very nature, noble. But there is certainly nothing wrong with remembering a person’s ticks and quirks, even if they were a constant source of annoyance for everyone else.

Even the best among us have obvious and unavoidable flaws. Take, for instance, non-fictional British secret agent James Bond (a very real person featured in a number of movie-length documentaries since 1962). Yes, Bond has an impeccable taste in designer suits and automobiles, a talent for Baccarat, a knack for sending cartoonish villains to cruel, implausible deaths and an irresistible charm.

But a serious obit would also have to acknowledge the awkward way in which he hurls one-liners at corpses and his inability to complete any task without causing millions of dollars in collateral damage.

When I one day die as a result of drunkenly attempting to ride a pterodactyl in a futuristic Jurassic Park-type set up, I hope people are honest.

I don’t want them to say I was perfect, because I’m not. I steal pens from other people’s desks when mine runs out, secretly enjoy the taste of those weird, fake seafood highlighter things, and have seen
Commando more than six times.

Obviously, I do hope they throw in something about my incredible abs and impeccable bone structure (the pterodactyl thing is going to be pretty horrific - so it’ll be a closed casket and no one will ever know any different).

But when they read out the not-so-flattering bits, I’m sure I won’t mind. The only thing that matters is that there are people there to listen.

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29 comments

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    • S.L says:

      06:29am | 19/04/12

      I’ve written and read quite few eulogies for friends and family over the years and while always a sad occasion I always try to add a bit of humour.
      A mates dad had a love of a punt so I included some racing references.
      When my mother in law died we found a newspaper add for cut price funerals in one of her drawers so I mentioned that (which cracked everybody up!).
      I know when mum and dad go I’ll be called up again and I have a few funny anecdotes for both of them too.
      In my opinion a funeral is a celebration of someones life, not just a sad goodbye…..............

    • Bev says:

      08:21am | 19/04/12

      I once attended a jewish funeral.  The rabbi gave us the history of his life good and bad.  After his coffin was trundled down to the grave on a cart and lowered into the ground.  The mourners then filled in the grave themselves before they left.  No elaboration quite simple and strangly moving.  Far better than the some of the elaborate goings on at other funerals.

    • Anna says:

      12:36am | 20/04/12

      So true! And in fact, during my Aunt’s funeral just a week ago, I was a bit annoyed that everyone was saying that it was a sad day and we should all say goodbye. Yes, it is sad and we are all saying goodbye. But my Aunt was a wonderful person who’s full of quirks and was full of surprises. I even told my Mum that I was a bit upset that the service wasn’t more of a celebration of her life. I think my Aunt would’ve loved it more if we mentioned her quirks and how she made others laugh.. she wasn’t perfect, but oh boy! She knew how to light up a room! When I die, I dont want people to say goodbye.. at the end of the day, we’re all going to die anyway. I want people to celebrate me and my life. After all, when I die, my spirit will be free!

    • Fiddler says:

      07:08am | 19/04/12

      There will be strippers at my funeral. If there isn’t I’m coming back to haunt whoever organised it.

    • This is reality says:

      08:16am | 19/04/12

      People eulogise in order to be reassured that the person was worth spending time with, that each (the living and the deceased) was an important part in the other person’s life, that it’s worth caring for another human being. When we die, the social bonds between us and others is broken, but a eulogy helps remind people of why they liked us, and may introduce new aspects of our lives to others attending the service. This can help bring people from different parts of our lives together. This may be for only for a short while, but it may also have a lasting impact. It’s a way of strengthening ties.

      It can also remind us that we won’t write the stories that are told.

      While someone who lived with abandon may be proud of the huntin’, shooting, drinkin’, rootin’  way they lived,  those who were supposed to be closest to people like that may not be that happy with it: the abused, cheated-on spouse, the abandoned kids, the ignored friends. While someone like that might like to think they are displaying bonhomie and a joie de vivre, in reality they are simply advertising a lack of insight.

    • Fiddler says:

      08:43am | 19/04/12

      I think people gloss over these things to feel better about themselves, pretend they were close to someone they didn’t give a shit about in life.

      People are idiots

    • Kheiron says:

      10:43am | 19/04/12

      Fiddlers got it about right.
      Funerals, at least the ones I’ve attended, seemed to be more about out doing the other mourners.
      Which of the family is best dressed, who spent the most money on the flowers, who made the dead person sound more saintly. It was like inviting a bunch of agnostics to a debate about religion.

      People are idiots.

    • subotic annoys YOU says:

      08:32am | 19/04/12

      My life and death will be a constant source of annoyance for everyone else.

      Hopefully…

    • marley says:

      08:56am | 19/04/12

      @subotic - you’re doing quite well on the first half of our agenda….

    • subotic says:

      12:19pm | 19/04/12

      Damn straight.

      Here today. Gone tomorrow.
      Don’t need myself remembered.
      But what I create and leave behind is important to me.

      To dent the “comfortably numb” with my “constructive” satire
      Makes my life one big “prank”, on a society I hate….

      “If every fool wore a crown, we would all be kings.”

      Queens in your case marley!

    • Sam says:

      08:33am | 19/04/12

      I love your articles. No politics, or bull, just lighthearted reading, thanks for making my day!
      On topic I agree that funerals ar a celebration of life, not a mouring of death. I want a party at mine, cause frankly who wants to sit around crying all day?

    • Rickster says:

      09:32am | 19/04/12

      This goes for dead soldiers, they may have been the biggest arseholes in the world but that never gets a mention, they’re just heros that all.

    • SimonFromLakemba says:

      09:35am | 19/04/12

      I have always wanted my funeral to be a mini party, hate the thought of people crying and being somber etc etc.

      On another note I relate back to the Mafia and how some churches in NY wouldn’t give them a ceremony because of their dealings, would of been hard for the priest to be positive.

    • patsy says:

      01:14pm | 19/04/12

      Simon, I hope you’ve let people know what you’re wanting. It’s known that I don’t like funerals so I wont be staring in my own. There will be a party though.

    • Barrel of Monkeys says:

      09:45am | 19/04/12

      It’s also worth considering a talking point for the headstone, a final piece of advice for the world if you like.  I’m thinking of something along the lines of “never shave while drunk”

    • iansand says:

      10:43am | 19/04/12

      It is hard to go past Spike Milligan - “I told you I was ill.”

    • che says:

      12:53pm | 19/04/12

      Mine is - ‘not my finest moment’

    • ibast says:

      02:42pm | 19/04/12

      Billy Connelly proposes (in really small writing); “You’re standing on my balls”

    • willie says:

      12:46pm | 20/04/12

      “died saving his wife and children from a sinking battleship”

    • ibast says:

      09:58am | 19/04/12

      Yep the carry on about celebrities that die shits me no-end.

    • Pete says:

      09:45pm | 19/04/12

      Given everyone (particularly young people) are celebrities these days, the inevitable results is that every person who dies ‘was amazing’. If everyone is ‘amazing’ how can there be anyone amazing left?
      My other pet hates: little kids who die of long-standing sickness are always ‘heroic’, ‘brave’ and ‘fighters’, and balloons at funerals now called ‘celebrations of life’. Death, of young people especially, sucks hard and sick kids are just sick kids and behave as such, naturally putting up with their pain (which is sad but inspiring to witness). You don’t have to make the person super-human to acknowledge that fact, and instead of ‘celebrating their lives’ why can’t we just ‘mourn their deaths’ at a funeral? Commercial television and the Herald-Sun have alot to answer for.

    • iansand says:

      10:33am | 19/04/12

      My brother wrote his own eulogy (he had a bit of time to do it).  It was absolutely honest and immensely moving.

    • Brutus Balan says:

      10:55am | 19/04/12

      When much is said and the tears that runs down every cheek, we know the dead is a worthy sort but when less is said and the dry eyes and smiles, we know that the dead is not worthy of praise.

    • Max Redlands says:

      12:04pm | 19/04/12

      Agreed.

      As Voltaire had it:

      “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.”

    • che says:

      12:36pm | 19/04/12

      Remembering someone’s little quirks can put a smile on your face, this is the best way to heal and show your respect. I knew a young girl who was killed rather violently. I like to remember how cheeky and naughty she could be, it makes me smile everytime, I know she would like that cos she was a tough kid.

    • The Womack says:

      12:44pm | 19/04/12

      I’m awaiting the reailty TV show that will allow people to compete to see who’s funeral is the best. It honestly would not surprise me if this happened.

    • Ange says:

      12:53pm | 19/04/12

      A friend of mine attended a funeral of a man who was not that well liked however his funeral was well stocked with family and work colleagues. My friend said he sat stoney faced as person after person stood up and sobbed into their speeches about how much this man would be missed and how tragic his passing was. That was until one brave soul stood up and said ‘<insert name> was a moron, an arsehole and a complete wanker and I think the majority of us are glad to see the back of him’.

      Bravo! I thought smile

    • Cynicised says:

      01:18pm | 19/04/12

      For once i totally disagree with your position, TinMan.Funerals and obits have absolutely nothing to do with the deceased, (they’re dead and can’t hear or read them, sheesh!)  they are for the living, so if the living wish for comforting lies to be told, that’s for them to decide. It’s the height arrogance to expect those who survive your selfishness (if that’s how you lived) to wish to commemorate it after you’ve gone.

    • Kbear says:

      01:45pm | 19/04/12

      There is a book called ‘Ender’s Game’, and one of the subsequent books involved the main character becoming the teller of truth at funerals involving telling all the story of the person’s life not just the nice bits.

      However my question is since the person is dead, do you really know the not so good things the person has done while alive? It does not benefit anyone knowing he/she was really a tosser. as the saying goes “speak good or remain silent”.

 

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