In Loving Memory is the topic of this ‘Daily Prompt’, which I’ve started following, as I submit to the discipline of regular blogging! ‘What would I want someone to write in my obituary’ is something I do think about – what will my legacy be? What will I be remembered for? An older friend with cancer died this week, and we all have the best impression of her character – to say ‘she was a lovely person’ feels like it encapsulates her, or like telling her life story could not add to our already fond and positive feelings for her, which we gained from knowing her personally over years. It sounds completely sappy to say ‘she lives in our hearts’, but it’s true, she’s in my memories, and not necessarily in a specific memory, but as a composite memory summed up as a positive presence who was there in a phase of my life.
Last night I was catching up on Season 5 of ‘The Good Wife’ and (spoilers, if you’re a season behind like me) I got to the episode where Will Gardner dies when his client goes mad with a gun in the courtroom. I had never seen that plot twist coming – I woke up still thinking about it this morning! In the episode that follows Will’s death, everyone is dealing with their grief and several characters say ‘I loved him’. Alicia Florrick is talking to her daughter, who suggests Will is now in heaven, and Alicia says something to the effect that he did some bad things, but he was trying to be, or to bring about, good, by doing the bad things. I believe the impression you’re left with of Will is that he was hard-nosed, passionate and dedicated to his work to the end, but that he was also well loved, although all who loved him had never expressed it to him in those words – a lot had gone unsaid.
Then there is the famous case of Alfred Nobel who one day in 1888 read his own obituary in the paper, where it had been accidentally published instead of his brother’s. Apparently he was horrified to see how he would be remembered as a ‘merchant of death’, having been heavily involved in the business of explosives, and that this was a turning point in his life. Unknown to his family, he left much of his fortune to fund the prizes that became the Nobel prizes. Until I heard this story, I didn’t know anything about Nobel’s involvement with explosives, but only about the peace prize.
I don’t tweet a lot, but recently I noticed it was ‘National Pig Day’ in the USA and I knew I had photos of the pig sculptures in Rundle Mall in Adelaide. So, just for fun, as I love the novelty and variety of having different days of the year dedicated to different people, animals, plants or causes, I tweeted my photo. Well, due to the hashtags I used, my tweet got picked up by City of Adelaide who decided to take up the cause of sending porcine love across the Pacific. I can safely say this is the most mentioned & re-tweeted tweet I have ever made. I’ve probably had my 5 minutes of (extremely minor) social media fame now, and I think it’s a great thing that social media is transient, because I wouldn’t want to think that when I’m gone, I was only known for tweeting about National Pig Day!
Last year I studied a course in visual arts, and at the end of the course we had to write an Artist’s Statement. This was a long and arduous process for someone who is not particularly into self promotion. Reflecting on your own art, and noticing themes, and then reflecting on what you want your art to be about, and bringing it together into a succinct statement is a daunting task. However one thing that aided me, was a job application for a copywriting job I’d put in last year. They asked you to nominate three words that defined you. I would like it if these three words were associated with me when I’m gone: Creative, Compassionate and Concrete. I’d like to be known as someone who not just created works of art, but as someone who also thought creatively. Someone who left a visual legacy behind, but not just a legacy of beauty, a legacy of compassionate advocacy for the marginalised and dispossessed. And I’d like to be remembered as someone who didn’t just create art in a garret, or theorise about justice in a safe place, but be known as a person of action, who got in amongst people and made theory concrete. I’m also a Christian, so I don’t just want to be known as someone who strived to do all this in their own strength, but as someone who lived an authentic life, sharing the compassion that comes from God. And if this is what I want to be known for, it’s a spur for me to get on and be what I want to be known to be.