Greatest Show on Earth Obituary
A favorite daily routine of seniors and others is the reading of each day’s obituaries. These are read with unspoken thoughts regarding the dead person’s age, life, membership in various organizations and the time and place of their funeral. This day by day obituary reading ritual usually concludes with a silent if not unconscious prayer of gratitude that the death of the reader was not included that day. This habitual reading of death notices, however, doesn’t make the reader any more mindful of their own death since dying always happens to others.
If a world obituary was released by the United Nations it would be a long read as daily about 250,000 die, and while that’s a staggering number, it’s immaterial unless it included your death! Excuse me for my repeated use of that filthy word, death. Psychologist and author Rollo May says that today the word is pornography, a dirty word unmentionable in polite society. So people “pass on”…they don’t die!
In the industrialized world people now live until their late eighties and early nineties, so death for most seems as remote as the planet Mars. Yet wise are you if you confront that final act and primal fear instilled in us as children. Our parents constantly admonished, “Be careful,” (implying “don’t get killed/die”) crossing the street, swimming or climbing trees. This admonition continued into adulthood when we usually add “Be careful” to our “Goodbyes.” In spite of these warnings our prehistoric sense of self-preservation makes us life-long dedicated death dodgers. A cure for this evasion can be found in the final days of P.T. Barnum’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
In April 1891 this illustriously creative showman, knowing that his death was near, requested of the New York Evening Sun newspaper the favor that he be able to read his obituary before he died! The newspaper agreed and ran their world famous Phineas Taylor Barnum’s four-column obituary on the very day before he actually died. It is said that Barnum greatly enjoyed reading it.
A guaranteed happy death and a cure for dodging death are hidden in Barnum’s desire to read his obituary. So write your own obituary. In creating it be abundantly lavish in praising your charity to all in need, especially your kindheartedness to the poor, your untiring patience under the heaviest pressure, your bold public stands against injustice, your prayerful serenity in the midst of the most horrendous situations and how untiringly loveable you were to all whom you encountered, both good or bad.
Along with a happy death, frequently reading your own obituary would also be ‘life-changing’ if every day you earnestly tried to live out what it said about you.