Counting Correctly

Mailer thingAs a good American mother, I’ve spent considerable time thinking about and some time talking to my kids (in ways the five-and-under crowd can understand) what “success” looks like—working harder, working smart, and all that. As a good Christian mother, I’ve tried to impress on them that success is using the gifts God gave you to the best of your ability to his glory.

When they’re older, I’m sure I’ll use that same “how would you want your obituary to read?” trick that everyone does to help guide people toward a life well-lived and one properly prioritized.

While the following isn’t an official obit—it’s from an article about Norman Mailer’s death—this cemented why the obituary trick is pretty good. As much as I’ve loved to sell as many books as Norman Mailer and as much as I’d love to be as influential a writer as he (having Joan Didion weep over the loss of my voice wouldn’t be bad—though I’d really like to out-live the generations-older-than-I Ms. Didion!), let’s just say these are not the words I’d want said about me or anyone:

“Mailer built and nurtured an image over the years as pugnacious, streetwise and high-living. He drank, fought, smoked pot, married six times and stabbed his second wife, almost fatally, during a drunken party.

“He had nine children, made a quixotic bid to become mayor of New York, produced five forgettable films, dabbled in journalism, flew gliders, challenged professional boxers, was banned from a Manhattan YWHA for reciting obscene poetry, feuded publicly with writer Gore Vidal and crusaded against women’s lib.

“But as Newsweekreviewer Raymond Sokolov said in 1968, ‘in the end it is the writing that will count.'”

Of course, in the end end, the writing doesn’t count. I pray at the end of this turbulent life, he found what does.

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