The blogging community can be a gigantic ass kiss fest at times, but there is one blog that has stayed for me, and for many others, one of the best pieces of writing out there.
Obituary Birthday by Hannah Miet
Sometimes I search my Gmail archives for clues. Evidence in sentence form. I excavate my bedroom for scraps of discarded paper. Shopping lists that may unlock my mystery.
It doesn’t work, of course. There is no narrative. I don’t find out why I did or did not love. I don’t find out where I was, or where I am.
I find an email to myself that only says “hipster circus, golf mag, rent check.”
500 saved job openings.
“Banksy’s Playlist for Curly American Enlightenment.”
Shopping list for a spectacular dinner I was too lazy to cook.
Apartment in Harlem: 420 Friendly: $900/month.
“I want to make love to your soul.”
Bonnaroo Music Festival Ticket Confirmation.
“Hire me. I have a flower in my hair.”
Open bar Obama. Don’t forget the red dress.
“Panda, call home, it’s been months.”
When I die, they may say that my life was in shambles. That I lived in squalor, or had many lovers and died lonely. My ghost will be unable to write a blog post saying “No guys, you’ve got it all wrong. I was happy.”
I hope my apartment is clean when I die. I hope there aren’t lists that say “Champagne, toothbrush, enema.” I hope I don’t go gently into that good night with my vibrator in hand reading a dirty French novel or watching Naughty Bookworms.
Then again, that’d be better than Alzheimer’s.
Maybe they will figure it all out better than I can (whoever “they” are). Fill in the blanks with the glue of time. String together images to make a motion picture, or at least an absurdist poem. They will say “She sang at Carnegie Hall” and “She kissed a married man” and both of these things will make perfect sense on the same page.
Someone I am quite fond of recently told me to turn to obituaries for examples of short, concise prose. I signed up for a daily obituary email, since such a thing, and pretty much everything, exists on the internet. I didn’t expect to find them so fascinating, and precisely for the fact they are so concise: an entire, messy, human summed up in a narrative.
I’ve always wondered what my obituary will look like. I wondered this in middle school, when a teacher made us write one positive adjective for each of our classmates and submit them all anonymously on scraps of paper. She read them all out loud. There were 24 students in the class. 20 of the strips of paper allotted to me said the word “nice.” One said “helpful,” most likely written by someone who cheated off me, one said “pretty,” most likely written by the one boy who noticed my breasts were growing faster than most, and one said “cool hair,” clearly written by an idiot who didn’t understand the concept of an adjective. I remember thinking that my obituary would be pretty boring.
“Hannah Miet was a loving daughter. Apparently nice, good to cheat off of, vaguely pretty. Idiots thought her hair was cool.”
11 years later, People still tell me I’m “nice.” They also tell me I’m “crazy,” occasionally with the addition “in the good way.” Since then, I’ve had over 15 jobs (one of which vaguely involved watching people have sex), danced awkwardly in and out of bedrooms and friendships and haphazard living arrangements; I’ve fallen for a stranger I’ve never met; I’ve shared champagne with the cinematic hero of my childhood; An ex once dumped the contents of my purse, as well as my shoes, down a 23 flight stairwell and broke my vibrator; I’m not sure my original obituary leaves room for these kind of memories and realities.
I need a Sherlock Holmes.
I am lost.
Barely two weeks after I signed up for the daily obituaries, I had a conversation with a stranger at a journalism conference. Obligatory small talk led me to the knowledge that, up until recently, his job was to write obituaries for a Baltimore paper.
“How did you stumble into that?” I asked, avoiding the urge to beg him to investigate my life and write mine.
“I just did.”
“Did you like it?”
“I did. But I wanted to be out reporting. Half of my time was spent searching the phrase ‘dies at’ on Google for leads.”
“Really? So it wasn’t interesting?”
“Rarely. Very rarely, the person was interesting. Sometimes, that didn’t make much of a difference. We’re all sons or daughters to someone, you know?”
“The interesting stuff is unwritten…”
“Exactly. Or at least, it doesn’t fit the storyboard.”
Very good, one of Hannah's best I reckon. A post like this on somebody else's blog is a fantastic gift indeed.
Thank you. Your intro was extremely touching, and makes mine feel inadequate. Thank you for being someone whose words I truly connect with.
I know we will share coffee someday. I see it happening.
@Mr London Street- Your comments always carry a lot of weight since the award you gave me was one of the things that really focused me on writing a blog that wasn't just an aside to my other writing.
Lauren – Just wanted to tell you that this is a beautiful sentence: Only a realization that I'm forcing a sentiment that I have already mourned- the death of ignorance that this town could be anything more for me than the place of my birth.
When I read something that strikes my core and rolls off my tongue beautifully, I never forget it. This is one of those sentences.
And Hannah – I enjoyed your piece as well. I love the visual of searching through old e-mail archives and bedrooms to find traces of a person who is already gone. I've done the same.
Love to you both! Now, can I get in on this blogswap action?
Both Hip-ster-krit and my soul is a butterfly are two of my favourite blogs.
I am so glad I found them both so soon in my blogging experiences.
It is such a treat to find you working together and sharing in such a way.
As always, amazing words from the both of you!
Great piece Hannah!
Hannah – my adjectives for your blog – beautiful, stunning, surreal. One of the best parts of blogging is being exposed to so many amazing writers, all at the same time. Hip-ster-krit, you too are now one of my favourites. Thanks for sharing. – G
What a beautiful blog post.
Kind of haunting in a way.
It makes you feel insignificant, like when you watch one of those videos that shows the size of the universe and how the Earth is only a molecule in comparison.
I'm very new to the blogging world myself but have been following both hip-ster-krit and My Soul is a Butterfly since I began. I love this post! Thank you for sharing it!
I am now addicted like crack (ok not crack, but buffalo chicken dip maybe since it's legal and doesn't require illegalities) to BOTH of your blogs.
Thank you both.
Always a pleasure to read!
I'm pretty new to this particular arena, but both "my soul is a butterfly" and "hip-ster-krit" are my favorites. I just wanted to thank you guys for giving me such extraordinary material to read and enjoy.
that post was beautiful, and just what i wanted to read upon getting to work. my two favorite bloggers, working in tandem- dream of dreams! however hannah, i do have a question. i dont consider myself an idiot- this could be just a delusion ive come to accept as reality, but i really do think your hair is 'cool'. however 'cool' could never completely describe the crown of curls that adorns your head daily.
Thank you both for all of your lovely posts. Hannah, I too find myself looking for clues of who I am or used to be. Rifling through the empty space in my parents house that I used to call my room or even as I do my bi-yearly cleaning of my vehicle. Both of you guys inspire me to blog more meaningfully.
I love this blog swap!
As a fan of the obits page myself, I find them so fascinating precisely because life is messy, and because it's what is edited out just as much as what is left in that speaks the loudest.
The best obits tell not just the facts of a life, but illustrate the colour of their life and what sort of person they were, and more importantly how they will be remembered. If you've seen the film Closer, you will know exactly what I mean…
I've no doubt that the words 'nice, helpful, pretty' won't be the words to describe you. Your light burns too brightly for that. Cool hair on the other hand…
I came home to gifts!
I'd be careful to say it's one of Hannah's best because every time I read something new of her's I'm convinced it's my favourite.
Whatever is written in your obituary, Hannah, will never do your own words justice. The power you pack into a sentence is rarely matched.
But, you already know I think this.
call me an ass-kisser, but this was f-ing fantastic
That was great Hannah. I've often wondered what of me will be left behind when I die, or what they will remember. I think some of my most interesting qualities and truths will die with me and render them useless In trying to describe me when I'm gone. I hope my obituary is simple and short, and I guess it wouldn't be so bad to be remembered as nice. It's better than them remembering me as a selfish bitch.
I've always thought Obits were a lot like billboards for expired products, and I've never understood how they came about. But certainly,
“Hannah Miet was a loving daughter. Apparently nice, good to cheat off of, vaguely pretty. Idiots thought her hair was cool.”
would be something for people who read obituaries that might get them to dig deeper. It certainly rings an honesty missing from the landscape of those pages.
Is it kosher to write your own obit?
I am a sad Hannah groupie. Such brilliant writing no matter where she lays her words. Always a little moment of excitement and a held breath, until I click on the newest link and sink comfortably into her beautiful words. Now a new place to lose myself. Thank you.
WOW and WOW!!
i've never thought about this before.. it got me thinking now.. thanks for sharing this great writing Hannah!! you're literally an inspiration!!
love and best..
Love your writing style! Beautiful post.
Thanks for the blog referral! I'm new here. thanks for finding me. I'll be back sister sledge.
I could read both yours and Lauren's over and over, they just trap me in.
Hey Hannah, who did you share the champagne with?
This reminds me why I need to get back into actual writing. I can say that I don't think I would like to be an obituary writer, even if it did pay the bills. I had a terrible time writing my mother's obituary, and I think it would have even been harder if I had not known her. I am very glad to have read this, and hope you both–Lauren and Hannah–have a great new year!
Hannah's posts are always so heart warming and a pleasure to read. This one is one of the best!
Blogs like these inspires me to keep on writing…a friend once said that blogging is just a manifestation of a sad, depressed soul but I totally negate that…Blogging World is like a home to those souls who connect thru words…
@Meg – Thank you! Let's have drinks on Sunday. Yes?
(And, why yes, the comment section of a guest post is the perfect place to make plans…)
@Sophie Neutron – I am in love with your profile photo. Always wish I could enter that time period.
Thank you for reading…exchanging words with someone as talented as Lauren has been inspiring.
@inflammatory writ – Thank you. And Happy New Year!
@Georgina – Every time I see your purple cat on my blog or Mysterg's or elsewhere, I always know I am about to read a hearfelt and beautiful comment.
@Juliette – Wow. I'm intrigued by that feeling as a reaction. Thank you.
@13GreenPixies Thank you for reading!
@Apryl – Since I'm a vegetarian, I am substituting cookies into this metaphor. Hope you don't mind.
Thanks for being addicted! Lauren is awesome.
@Gabriel Barrio – Thank you!
@Kermit the frog – And thank YOU for helping teach me to spell and lightening my childhood with your songs about being a Caribbean amphibian!
@ashlin – Aw, thank you! You are definitely on my favorites list as well, as is Lauren, obviously.
@Taylor – The parent's house is shockingly revealing. Your used-to-be lived in past, frozen in time. Now lifeless. Never fails to haunt me.
@Mysterg – You're absolutely on point…and I think that says a lot about our lives. The color is really what's important. The structure of it all – the people, places and situations hold no feeling. Emotion is in the wind and the sunset. The movement of the waves. I like those obits the best as well.
Thank you for reminding me I wanted to keep my Nichols run going.
@Birdykins – I hesitate in the same way in regards to your words. I also hesitate to say your comments warm my heart, but it is always the case.
@Pia – Thank you. And I don't know where this stigma about ass kissing comes from. I like a good kiss on my ass every now then. Everyone does. As long as it's genuine, why not show love?
@Eva O'Dell – It's strange, because as writers we literally have more on paper.
I know Hemingway more than I know the the people in the Obit section, which is interesting. Words immortalize us. I sometimes wonder about this in terms of blogs, because our everyday events are transcribed. Our lives are thoughts will still be there, frozen, when we pass.
@Freelance Palbearer – Your name intrigues me.
I would assume it's unkosher to write your own obit. I've thought about it a lot, and about doing it. I'm not sure if it's right, since the obits are generally what you meant to the world.
Do your memories belong to the people who remember you? Do you have ownership over those memories? Your question brings up a lot of other questions in my mind.
@Seyma Thank you so much. You sure now how to compliment a writer…making someone think is like, exactly, what we want to do. : )
@Rusty Hoe – What a beautiful compliment. Thank you.
@Marie Elise Thank you, dear.
@Mr. C – Thank you. And happy new decade, Mr. C!
@Martinis and Diaper Genies – Your name. Oh, man. I need to check out your blog!
@Aanchal – Thank you. I am happy to have you as a reader.
@Joana – I couldn't agree more about the blog world. Thanks for reading.
@That Chelsea Girl – Happy New Year to you too!
I can imagine writing an obituary for a loved one is much harder than writing them for strangers. No ones soul can fit in a paragraph or page, and when you are intimate with someone's soul, that becomes clearer. Especially while you're grieving. I can't even imagine.
I guess that's why I am so fascinated by words that attempt to do this. Not just obits. We are always capturing pieces of ourselves in sentences.
@Mr. C – Thank you. And happy new decade, Mr. C!
A coworker of mine's sister-in-law died yesterday from a long fight with cancer. After shuffling through today's paper to see if there were announcements I asked, "Who wrote her obituary?" Funny how these things reemerge.
"Is that normal?"
"If you know your going to die, sure it is."
I thought for a long time about that. Here you are, riddled with pain, and you have to sum up your life. What power that is, to dictate even after your gone. But then I thought about how sad the whole concept it is, and how in the end not many read the obituaries, and even less recreationally; not to even dwell on who is entertained by death. But perhaps we should be, and perhaps its poetic to have that control.
Do we have ownership of our memories? If memory can be owned, what does that mean about life? These questions always just beg more questions and I tend to get lost in the futility of it all. Maybe we are all the same in that regard. Certainly it's a bag of chaos that I struggle with daily and I am neither old enough (experienced)nor intelligent enough to grasp.
Perhaps I am bogging myself down too much. Maybe these questions, as they pertain to obituaries, isn't an all expansive conundrum about existence, but I remember the bitter imbalance stunned throughout my body as my Aunt wrote her fathers obituary, and had me edit: it was glib and he deserved profound. But who am I, certainly not his daughter. Hmph…
@Freelance Palbearer – It never ceases to amaze me how this happens. You start thinking about something and then it becomes alive around you (or in this case…dead?), almost as if you unaware of how present it was all along.
I am glad that's settled. Though I am still completely uncertain whether or not I would write mine if given the chance. The power is alluring, even if no one would read it. Come to think of it, there will be no one investigating my life as extensively when I'm not around. I'm definitive head detective in that field.
I don't have the answers to those questions. I wonder if I ever will.
I understand why you would feel bad for thinking it was "glib." But you can't help that. It's part of the curse of mastery of language. You can look at an emotion that may be very present, but perfectly ineffectively, it can't touch you. Being a writer is sometimes a shield from insincerity and the trite…but sometimes it's also a shield from poorly worded sincerity. It's a tough balance…
@Hannah Miet- The problem is perception, as it usually is, and so while perhaps we have the choice to write our own obits, should we? Maybe this is just a cathartic cry to an empty universe about a parable footnoted on the precipice of our cognizance, but that is the crux of the problem. If we don't exist anymore are we influencing others perceptions of who we were; do the dead have rights? I think I might be in the crowd of: no we don't. If my time is over I am done, close the book.
But this may be too oblique, insincere, and I roundly apologize for my quasi-philosophic garble.
That said I do like my sadness with the panache of Faulkner.
wow. i hope you are writing a book. or become published. you ought to be 🙂
I often wonder if any words can truly capture the spirit of the person who has past. Are we our internal monologue or a complex combination of the perceptions of those we interact with throughout our life? Whilst one person may know us as the comedienne another may see us as the mother, the saint or the sinner. Is any one perception less real than another? Are there any words that can fully encapsulate the life of a person or the gaping void their loss leaves in the souls of those left behind? Having had to write (and give) the eulogy for my 9 year old nephew with my sister, a number of years ago, I think all we can do is try to give voice to that which we held dearest not necessarily reveal the true essence of the person lost. It is the effort and memories elicited in the writing, not the content of the copy.
Welllll. It took me a minute to make the jump over here from MSiaB to this intriguing young lady's blog.
(AN ASIDE: Lauren, is it? This probably isn't the best time for this, but … marry me?
Ok, no, nope, sorry, way too soon. … A different approach: [Ahem.] I see you like to dance. Well, I do an excellent impression of a lamp. Feel free to put on your big suit and toss me around sometime. …)
Anyways, Hannah–the detective angle. I love it. I would offer to be your Sherlock Holmes, but I don't think you need one. (And, to illustrate how much I would actually enjoy playing Sherlock, I will reveal that I have a "7%" sign tattooed above my ankle–7% being the ratio of cocaine-to-water which the famous sleuth would inject when he didn't have a mystery to occupy his mind. The tattoo is a scrawled, magnificently imperfect memento done with a needle and thread and India ink and a gutful of white russians and a handful of pills and perpetrated by the amazingly steady hands of an old, dear friend. But, yes, I dig Sherlock Holmes (and I used to really dig intravenous drug use, but that's another story). But "I like Holmes" was supposed to be the point of that anecdote. … I'm not quite sure if that came across.)
You seem to know yourself too well to believe anyone else could get the shades and tones of your briefly worded-life just right. …
I might suggest writing a whole slew of obituaries for yourself, each in a different style, each highlighting different aspects of your life (and each, perhaps, giving a different guess as to how you will finally depart this mortal coil). Then, leave instructions for different obituaries to appear in different newspapers and on different websites–in death, you'd have blanketed the world with the strands of your gorgeous existence, a weave that would only grow stronger, because once people realized that you had had 300 vastly different obituaries published, some intrepid mind would scramble to collect and trace and connect the strands of the web and solve the mystery–who, who was the "enigmatic" Hannah Miet? (This reminds me a lot of my post from earlier tonight … funny how these things happen.)
Or maybe people would just think you were loopy.
Anyways, when I first read the post it made me think of Fernando Pessoa, a Portugese poet who contained multitudes of other writers. He wrote using "heteronyms," which were more-or-less fully developed personalities complete with their own histories, interests, fields of expertise, writing styles, etc. He published, in his lifetime, a few poems here and there, a collection or two, and three of the heteronyms became rather famous. When he died, discovered amongst his effects was a trunk filled to the brim with sheafs, scraps, leafs, reams, pages of writing … it turns out he had at least seventy-two heteronyms (he died in 1935, but they are still going through the trunk and sorting everything out, apparently). Anyways, I thought of him, and his fractured, fragmented personality. He killed off a few of his heteronyms in his time, I can't remember how. But that must have been dreadful, and dreadfully liberating–to forever silence an internal voice that whispers poetry in your ear.
You should check him out, if you haven't had the chance. He's an amazing writer, but his life was his greatest aesthetic achivement, I think.
Ok. Later days. Thanks, Lauren, for your hospitality.
Both of you are beautiful writers, and beautiful women. Thank you for sharing your words, because reading them brings a lot of joy and inspiration to a lot of people. 🙂