SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was writing my mother’s obituary.
She died November 30, 1999 and the next day, I sat in the office of a funeral home director in the small Northern Maine town my parents lived in.
My father , brother and I sat for nearly an hour as we attempted to summarize the life of a woman who meant the world to us.
The toughest part of the process was trying to paint a picture that would honestly represent her and what she believed in.
How I wish I had the opportunity to ask her questions as we sat there and through tears, attempted to write her story in just a few short paragraphs.
We knew the basics of course. Where and when she was born, the names of all of her brothers and sisters, where she went to school and the like.
But where we fell short was trying to share why she loved the things she loved. Why she believed in the things she believed in.
It was never a conversation I had with her because she was so young when she died and to be honest, we were so overcome with grief that we just couldn’t find the words.
I was reminded of that day after my friend Mike Violette, a radio talk show host in Maine, shared something on Facebook this morning.
It was the self written obituary of Gail Armstrong and she died July 15 at the age of 61.
Gail, who lived in the Augusta area, knew her time was short so she sat down with her daughters and penned a tribute to herself.
In it, she mentions her deceased parents and brother along with her daughters, her grandson, surviving brother, sister, even her ex-husband. She referred to him as her “dear friend”.
Gail and her daughters shared what I like to call a “salty Maine wit” and their sense of humor was obvious as I read her obituary.
Here’s what she wrote:
” I hate to admit it but I, Gail A. Armstrong from Augusta, have passed away with my two loving daughters by my side on July 15, 2022, at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Mass. I was born Feb. 4, 1961 to Rodney and Beverly Armstrong who have preceded me, along with my brother, Rodney Armstrong Jr. “Bubba”.
I leave behind my oldest daughter Amanda Allen, my daughter Tiffany Allen Baynard, her husband Cameron, and my “perfect” grandson Bradley (whom I refer to as “My World”). I also leave behind my ex-husband and dear friend Rick Fowler, my brother Amos Armstrong and wife Kathy, my sister Lisa Maxim and her partner Darrell, as well as many nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles.
I always enjoyed instigating people on Facebook, sharing pictures of my daughters and my grandson, and being on the water. Another lifelong passion was reading obituaries in the Kennebec Journal. I always called it the “Stiffs Section,” and here I am joining with my own debut. My causes of death were complications with illness, having a little too much fun earlier in life, and fatigue from dealing with all the humorless and overly sensitive people in this world today.
Most will remember me by my sarcastic comments and inappropriate jokes. I can make light of any situation even up to my last days. I just can’t help myself!
I finally have the smoking hot body I always wanted … I have been cremated. My ashes will be spread in the water in various locations, and I will be swimming all over the world.
Although I passed at Lahey, I want to thank the staff at Gray Birch in Augusta for putting up with me and taking great care of me even though I was a handful. It was all in good fun.”
She closed in a way that made me laugh and cry at the same time:
“Thank you all for sharing this life with me. I’m off to go raise heck with Bubba and the rest of the stiffs. Latah!
Love most of you, Gail”
Bubba is her previously deceased brother and “Latah”…that’s Maine speak for “See you later”, Mainers have a habit of avoiding the letter “R” when it’s the last letter of a word. I never developed that accent as I spent my early years in Connecticut and my speech pattern was pretty much set in stone by the time I moved to the Pine Tree State.
Gail seemed like the type of person who lived life her way and her passing was going to be handled exactly the same.
After reading Gail’s wonderful self written obituary, I have decided that I will pen my own as well.
Not that I plan on joining Gail behind the pearly gates anytime soon, but it will be one less thing for my surviving family members to deal with after I’m gone.
Besides, they will likely write wonderful words about me and leave out the things that piss me off. Sometimes, that’s more interesting.
Like Gail. SHE was interesting.
I never met her. Never even heard her name until today but dammit, I wish I had known her.
Rest In Peace, Gail.
I’m sure you were wicked decent.