Last weekend, my wife died in her sleep after suffering a stroke. She was 83. I wanted to let our community know about her passing, so I wrote up a brief obituary about her life, and sent it to our local paper. Unfortunately, they screwed it up and said she was survived by a beloved clam. I asked them to republish it with a correction, and they said she was survived by a beloved clam again. I wish I could say they eventually got it right, but sadly, I cannot. This isn’t how I wanted to honor my late wife.
This was the first obituary that I wrote for my wife, Janette. After she died, I sent it to our local newspaper. They printed it the following day, but the last part was wrong. It read, “She is survived by a beloved clam.” That’s not what I wanted it to say. I wanted it to say, “She is survived by her beloved husband Jim and daughter Kathleen.” Not a beloved clam. I notified the paper of the error, and requested it be republished with the correction. The next day, they published a second obituary. If only it had ended there.
I thought I had been clear in my email to the editors of the paper about what I wished to be corrected in the obituary. Clearly, I was not, because the above obituary is what appeared in the paper the next day. Becoming quite frustrated, I emailed them asking that they publish a corrected version the following day, and I made sure to specify that the whole piece should not mention clams at all. Why was that so hard to understand?
I was livid when I saw the third obituary of my wife. Her nickname was never “Clam Fan.” I do not know how my local newspaper got the idea that it was, but they were wrong. And although they had included my name and my daughter’s name, they forgot to remove the part that said she is survived by “a beloved clam.” So I sent an email to the paper in which I pointed out these errors and prayed that this would be the end of it. Not even close.
When I went to get the paper the next morning and found this obituary of my dear wife of 62 years, I was extremely disheartened. They had basically just reprinted the first obituary with a picture of a clam instead of a picture of my wife. And so I sent yet another strongly worded email to my local paper. My poor wife. She deserved better than this.
Once again, my local newspaper dropped the ball, and this is what I saw in the paper the next day. Not only does the piece continue to mention this “beloved clam,” but it isn’t even an obituary. It appears on page three of the “Local News” section of the paper. I would also argue that it is considerably more focused on the survival of the clam than my wife’s death. At this point I was so dismayed by my local newspaper’s utter ineptitude in honoring the memory of my dear wife, Janette, that I decided to scrap the whole obituary altogether. I issued a request that the article be retracted, and let them know that I did not wish for them to publish another obituary of my wife. That should have been the end of this whole painful ordeal.
What is there to say about the sixth obituary of my wife that was published in the newspaper the next day? It is a front-page article about a flourishing clam that doesn’t even mention my wife by name. I can’t help but wonder why my local newspaper managed to honor this clam with such a dignified piece, and yet was seemingly unable to do the same for my wife. I sent them an email asking for the front-page article about the clam to be retracted as it felt like an affront to my wife’s memory to have her death obscured by a celebration of the clam erroneously claimed to have been beloved by her. But the piece has not been retracted. I am beginning to accept that it probably never will be. All I wanted to do was honor my wife, and I failed miserably. All because of that goddamn clam. Janette, my love, I am sorry. I am so very sorry.