Like many people my age, I regularly read the obituary columns, to see who has passed [which is to say, whom I have outlived.] Twenty years ago, seventy-five seemed a respectable age. Now, I view those who barely survive into their eighties to have been cut off in their prime.
This morning, I read that the wonderful English actor Ian Carmichael died at 87 [an acceptable age to me at this point in my life]. I rushed right home and ordered "I'm All Right, Jack" from NetFlix. For those of you too young to remember, that movie is a hilarious send-up of labor-management relations in post-war England, with Peter Sellars doing a priceless turn as a Communist labor leader with an absurdly nubile daughter. I strongly recommend it.
I was also reminded of an idea I have had for an on-line business, though my son, Patrick, who is a serious hedge fund manager, has been less than enthusiastic about its prospects. All of us obit readers have wondered what our own obituaries would look like, and indeed whether we would even rate an obituary not submitted to the classifieds by the grieving survivors. Unfortunately, up 'til now, it has been necessary to die in order to rate an obituary, a fact that makes reading it difficult. Large newspapers, like the NY TIMES, maintain elaborate files of prospective obituaries, of course [appropriately stored in a room called by reporters "the Morgue"], and, at least in the case of important public figures, regularly update them, so that as soon as someone pops off, the text is ready to print. But I do not think one can present oneself at 620 8th Avenue and ask to see one's obituary.
So, here is the idea: For a fee, OnLineObits.com, a subsidiary of HaveYourCakeAndEatItToo, Inc., will prepare and post a full-scale obituary, complete with capsule reviews of any publications or other creative works, a summary of academic honors [if any] and military service [if any], and a fair and balanced account of one's marriages or other significant relationships. A space will be reserved for anticipatory eulogies. For an additional fee, subscribers will receive a printed copy, suitable for framing. the service will be rigorously objective, and no self-prepared texts will be accepted. You pays your money and takes your chances.