Editing my Grandmother’s Obituary

Last week my cousin called me. For the last year, she’s been writing an obituary for my grandmother who turned 90 in December 2018.

She reached out to me, as the person she could rely on to help her with the process. There are several reasons for this and I wanted to share.

I hope some of my suggestions will bring a smile or happy thought to your efforts, if you too are faced with writing an obituary for a loved one,

My grandmother doesn’t want us moping around after she goes.

Even as she turned 90 last December, she was making jokes about aging. She and my 93 year old grandfather still live together in the house they built with their children in the 1960’s. In their lifetime, they’ve said good-bye to their parents, 2 of their 4 children, all but 2 siblings, neighbors, friends and countless others.

Grandma Rubye is always thinking of others and she’d prefer everything get settled before she leaves this world. She’s funny like that.

In fact, she’s made jokes about her demise since I was a child. Subtly preparing each and every one of us for the eventuality: death comes for us all one day.

One afternoon just after college, I was helping grandma clean up some things at home. I noticed a lovely floral dress hanging on the door as if it were on display. I imagined grandma going to a fancy ball or elegant party…

”Eww- wee looks like you’re going somewhere fancy?!’ I joked. I held the dress up and danced around the room with it.

‘No.‘ She laughed, like she always does at my theatrical displays. ‘That’s my death dress!’

Shocked right out of my day dream, I immediately burst into tears. This only made her laugh harder.

‘Oh Adrienne! Look at you, all worked up! It’s just a dress. You know I’m gonna die someday. You better believe I’m gonna be prepared when the day comes.’

I’m old (wise) enough to be objective.

Ok. After that last story you’d probably think I couldn’t be objective when reading an obituary about Grandma. But I’ve grown up significantly since those days fresh out of college.

I am now one of the few who could make it through objectively without letting the tears overtake me. (David could, of course- he’s a lawyer!)

Since my tears over the ‘death’ dress, I’ve had several opportunities to truly appreciate her wisdom and long life. We almost lost her to stroke a decade ago. That stroke stole her ability to walk, a curse worse than death for Rubye Lee.

She persevered. She tries everyday because we hold onto her. Truthfully, we will never be ready to lose her. She is and always has been the heart of our family.

I think obituaries should be funny.

Obituaries are notoriously awful. And according to my mother, ‘they are not supposed to be funny.’

But why not? Why shouldn’t they be funny? Why can’t they be full of life instead of death?

When my cousin first mentioned she was working on this, I flatly told her I hoped she made it funny, spirited and a tribute to grandma. Absolutely no pressure with that statement!

I want the last words written about me to help others remember who I was. Words that can encompass my spirit by sharing the things I contributed to the world. Hopefully helping anyone who reads it, feel at peace with my passing.

Which makes me think.. perhaps I need to get started on my own obituary?!? Especially if I want it to be funny!!

xoxo adrienne signing off


the Photographer

Adrienne Maples


Kansas City photographer, Adrienne Maples, weaves together powerful narratives with her photographs to create mood and evoke emotion.


She's an AI enthusiast, passionate about teaching others how to use technology responsibly for the greater good. Known for her 'spunk & pizazz', she directs from behind her camera, finding impromptu designing to transform mediocrity into the extraordinary.


She a board member of AIGA and KCAC. As a committee member of KCDW, she organized the 2024 talks: The A.I. Asset, Creator as Curator.

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*bw photo by Sara Brennen-Harrell

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