Obituaries rarely go viral, but when they do it’s usually for their creativity, originality, or inspirational message.  Sometimes, though, they go viral for their vitriol.  Below is the latest viral vitriol obituary that’s making it’s rounds all over the internet:

Picture: Rewood Falls Gazette

As horrible as this obituary is, it pales in comparison to some others I’ve read.  For example:

Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick born Jan 4, 1935 and died alone on Aug. 30, 2013. She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible. While she neglected and abused her small children, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.

On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviving children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.

Such obituaries garner a number of reactions.  Some people find some vicarious satisfaction when seeing bad people publically shamed.  Some are simply saddened that one life could cause so much pain and hurt that it’d prompt such an obituary.  Others are angered that the family would publically shame the dead … who have no ability to defend themselves  Still, others think it’s cathartic, a healthy way for victims to cope with the pain and violence

Shaming of the dead is nothing new.  Historically, using an obituary to shame the deceased is charitable, at least compared to some of the other ways we’ve done it.

We only have to go back to Muammar Gaddafi’s death.  Remember him?  The Libyan despot?  Remember how photos of his bloated and mutilated corpse flashed across TV screens, news websites, and newspapers?  THAT is death shaming.

In many cultures, if you want to show contempt to the deceased, you bury them facedown.

Criminal’s bodies have often been put on display like pieces of meat in a butcher shop.

And the dead bodies of the defeated during war times are often disrespected in unmarked graves, or hung on buildings, bridges, and stakes.

In my book, I talk about something I call “active remembering”.  I talk about how we usually remember the dead passively, but active remembering is doing it intentionally.  It’s intentionally bringing the dead into the spaces of the living.

There’s a whole chapter dedicated to active remembering in my book, and the assumption is that we actively remember those that we love.  But, there’s also an active remembering that’s based on hate.  The family of Kathleen Dehmlow is practicing active remembering.  And they’re doing it very well because it seems MANY people know about Kathleen and her less than virtuous life.

I guess this is how I feel about obituary shaming: I wish we could practice active remembering that’s based on love as well as the family of Kathleen did in hate.     


If you like my writing, consider buying my 2017 Nautilus Book Award Gold Winner, Confession of a Funeral Director (click the image to go to the Amazon page):

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