James O'Donnell knew he'd die some day, so he decided to write his own paid obituary beforehand.
"I've sat in too many funeral homes watching people struggle with a creative writing exercise while their hearts were breaking. So they usually get it wrong," the Galveston resident wrote in it.
The result was a funny, heartbreaking, philosophical, score-settling, thousand-word recapping of his sometimes tragic life.
Some of the highlights (Note: O'Donnell was the father of UH police officer Ann O'Donnell, who died on-duty in a traffic accident.):
What I Learned From Selling [Vicks vapo-Rub] Salve I was amused to learn that some farmers added Vapo-Rub to the feed for their chickens during the winter, to keep them healthy. Other people actually ate it by the spoonful every day because they believed it had magical medicinal properties. Some smeared it on their warts, because they thought it would make them go away. People who don't read books believe the darn'dest things.
5. Score-Settling Part I
For the next 35 years I derived more pleasure from my jobs than most people do, got fired several times (by the same people who then hired me back), had some failures and successes, started a couple of new companies, and lost millions to a partner and his wife who stole it from my family and me. Those two turned dishonesty and disloyalty into an art form.
What I Learned From Retirement When I retired to a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico I spent all of my time with my family, reading, and enjoying doing little work. I don't know what I accomplished, but it always took me all day to get it done.
3. Score-Settling Part II, and Tragedy
What I Learned About God's Mercy In 2008 we lost our son Mike, 42, to callous medical malpractice. None of us ever got over the tragedy, and the waste of such a brilliant and funny person. He was robbed of the chance to see his beloved son - the most important person in his life - grow into manhood. In 2010 we lost Ann, our youngest daughter. This precious, indomitable girl was killed while she sped in her police cruiser in an heroic effort to stop a kidnapper. Gone before her 25th birthday, intelligent, caring, funny, everyone's friend, Ann never had a chance for marriage, children, her own home or all the other things she deserved. I refused to accept gracefully or stoically the needless loss in their prime of two of my 3 children.
2. No rabbits, please
The other creatures who enriched my days were my canines (in chronological order) Sandy, Pat, Jonesie, Princess, Peugeot, Fluffy-Duffy, Rommel, Robert, Puppy, Cosette; and our felines, Liebchen, Bunny, Muffin, Dirt, Percy and KC. And a terrific hamster named Mousie-man. We had a rabbit once, too, named Natasha, but I didn't like her.
1. Listen up, God
To everyone who loved me -- thank you. You gave much more than you received. To God -- I hope you can find a few minutes to talk with me, because you got some 'splaining to do.
In lieu of flowers, O'Donnell asked for contributions to the 100 Club, which supports the widows and children of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
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