After Mary Stocks passed away at age 94, her grown children began discussing her will — and stifling giggles.
Mary wanted her kids to take all the items they had given her over the years. But her daughter, Shauna Perreault, didn’t want a 20-year-old toaster oven, and her son, Sandy Stocks, didn’t want a 14-year-old car. The more they chatted about it, the more they laughed.
It was then Stocks knew how to write his mother’s obituary.
“Everything I could think of about my mother was funny. I didn’t want to write a really boring obituary,” Stocks told TODAY.com. “I did it more for my family, so they would have something to remember her that would be fun.”
The 669-word piece, is an unusual twist on the obituaries that regularly fill the paper’s memorial page because it’s sprinkled with laughs about Pat’s foul mouth, her questionable cooking skills and her wild methods of guiding her children through the “school of hard knocks.”
Unlike most obituaries, it has gone viral, eliciting emails from all over North America and hundreds of Facebook shares.
It starts off with Sandy, trying to flog the odds and ends uncovered at Pat’s Don Mills area home upon her death.
“She left behind a hell of a lot of stuff to her daughter and sons who have no idea what to do with it,” Sandy writes. “So if you’re looking for 2 extremely large TV’s from the 90s, a large ceramic stork (we think) umbrella/cane stand, a toaster oven (slightly used) or even a 2001 Oldsmobile with a spoiler (she loved putting the pedal to the metal), with only 71,000 kilometers and 1,000 tools that we aren’t sure what they’re used for. You should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch. Tomorrow would be fine.”
Later, the piece pokes fun at Pat’s skills in the kitchen, a circumstance born out of her husband’s penchant for overcooked cuisine.
In between mentions of Pat’s regular mile-long treks through blizzards to get to school and her “lack of patience,” Sandy writes, “She liked four letter words as much as she loved her rock garden and trust us she LOVED to weed that garden with us as her helpers, when child labor was legal or so we were told.”
Mary loved cooking and entertaining, her son recalled. Christmas was her favorite time of year, and she always made a turkey covered in bacon. She wore three-inch stiletto heels, even during Toronto winters, and she drove until two months before she died.
It ends with a call for a donations in her honor to the Covenant House and a message saying that, “A private family ‘Celebration of Life’ will be held, in lieu of a service, due to her friends not being able to attend, because they decided to beat her to the Pearly Gates.”
When she moved into a smaller house, she insisted that it have two floors and a rock garden. She wanted the stairs for exercise and she always loved rock gardens — even if her kids didn’t.
“She liked four letter words as much as she loved her rock garden and trust us, she LOVED to weed that garden with us as her helpers, when child labor was legal or so we were told,” he wrote in the obituary.
Stocks said he didn’t understand why her mother was so crazy about rock gardens until he recently came across an old wedding picture of her — standing in front of her father’s rock garden. It must have reminded her of family, he said.
For those imagining just how dismayed Pat would be if she knew the tone of the piece her family wrote, Sandy assured the Star “this is what she would want.”
“She probably would have laughed her head off and thought we got her to a t, there’s no doubt about that,” he said, describing his mother as “prim and proper,” but the kind of person who would never hold back an opinion or try to skirt the truth.
It was those traits that Sandy had in mind when he sat down to write the obituary, after his sister Shauna was too distraught to write it herself.
Most of the obituaries that had run before about Pat’s late friends were bland and lacked the whimsy or colour that seemed synonymous with Pat, a former Red Cross truck driver who married a World War II veteran who passed away at least a decade ago.
Together “no-nonsense” Pat and her husband Paul, raised what Sandy calls a “dysfunctional family” of four kids, 10 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and four Collies all named Tag.
“We would come home and Tag would be gone, but instead, there would be a new little puppy named Tag,” recalled Sandy. “We would say “Where is Tag?” and she would say, ‘That’s it. Right there.’”
Even as she aged, Pat never lost her funny bone, enjoying conversations with her grandkids, playing bridge at The Granite Club and driving in three-inch heels on icy roads. She was also adamant about keeping up her cooking duties, preparing turkey dinner for the Stocks clan every Christmas until her death.
Relying on memories like those, Sandy giggled and cried his way through a draft of Pat’s obituary before gathering the family at his niece’s home to read it and get their approval.
When he was done reciting it, there were no objections, he said, and so it went to print, attracting attention from avid readers as far as Missouri who shared the piece on social media.
Mary greatly enjoyed her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Stocks said. She also loved to impart important life lessons.
“My mum always wanted to try everything. It didn’t matter, even if you failed — (she would say), ‘Suck it up! You’ll be OK! You have to fail!'” he said. “When I got older, I knew I could do anything. She had no fear.”
His mother, he hopes, is laughing about what he wrote like most others are.
If he could tell her anything now, he said it would be, “I know you wanted everything private, but sorry, Mom, I wanted you to be recognized for what you were because you were great.”
People all over the world have sent Stocks messages saying how moved they were to learn about his mother. One man told Stocks he woke up feeling depressed, but after reading about Mary, he felt happy.
“It is unbelievable how they can relate to it,” Stocks said. “Everybody is getting something from it, which is kind of the coolest thing.”
Article first appeared on today.com
By: Meghan Holohan