Aunt Paul Remembered

Few people think of funerals as a time for gathering family stories, but that may be one of their prime functions. Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Sally Kalson underscores this aspect of an otherwise grim event in today’s column, Family lore: There's no time like a funeral for remembering the good stuff as she commemorates her aunt, Paula “Paul” Ruth Mitchel, who was buried last Monday.

Sally’s column is full of fun, like the story about the time Aunt Paul put a dent in her husband’s brand new car. Within the column are enough snapshot stories to fill an entire volume about Aunt Paul and her whole delightful family. Between peals of laughter as I read, several thoughts crossed my mind:
  • It’s refreshing to read something positive and amusing on the OpEd page of the paper best known for critical, negative and generally less than uplifting content. I’m grateful to Sally for sharing the shining example of her aunt’s life.
  • Anyone inclined to write about family history should always have a thick notepad and pen handy at funerals few events are richer in story content, and your story idea list will swell.
  • If we write stories about our loved ones ahead of time, we’ll be ready to present a eulogy with less stress when the time comes.
  • For a landmark birthday some time ago, a friend presented me with a story she had written about me that she instructed me to put with my will, because she wanted it read at my funeral at some time in the distant future. Being several years older than I, she does not expect to attend. I was stunned and touched, and I’m reminded now of my intention to return the favor.
Wherever you live, I suggest you click over to Sally's column and read it as a fine example of a way to commemorate the highlights of a whole tribe of relatives. It would work equally well for a celebration of friends, community members, or long-time colleagues, and you don't have to wait for a funeral.

Write now: use Sally’s essay as a pattern to write a collection of snapshot stories of your relatives. If you don’t have a funeral to attend, pull them from memory. When you finish, e-mail your story to everyone in the family.


Kathleen Pooler said...


Enjoyed your post and link. It really hit home as I had a friend (whose older brother was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and is opting out of chemotherapy)tell me today that she has started writing his eulogy. As she was writing, she realized that she really wants to share these thoughts with him while he is alive and plans to do so. I like your ideas about sharing now and not waiting until the funeral. Thanks,we can all take a lesson from that!


Sharon Lippincott said...

It's easier to take the lesson than to apply it!

Karen Walker said...

Sharon, this is such a wise post. Having just gone through the 3 weeks from terminal diagnosis to death with my mother-in-law, I saw first-hand the value of stories. The family gatherings around her bedside were all about sharing memories of growing up with her. Her daughter in capturing many of those in essays and they are a treasure.