A Newfoundlander’s selfwritten obituary about a life well-lived went viral this week and taught the rest of us not only how to live, but how to make a memorable exit.
“Stuff has been trying to kill me for years and it was colon cancer that finally got me, at the age of 44,” Shannon Churchill wrote in his own obituary.
His wife, Melissa, says the obituary is “so Shannon,” and that while he lived most of his life in Nova Scotia, he never forgot his Newfoundland roots. Churchill lived in St. John’s until he was 16, but visited often because most of his family still lives here.
“He was very proud and passionate about Newfoundland,” she said, and that showed even in his dying words.
On the night Churchill died, he confessed that he was worried about her — worried that she wouldn’t be strong enough, “because we’ve just had such a presence in one another’s lives,” she said.
“So, I rubbed his hand and reassured him, and I said, ‘You know, babe, you taught me how to be strong. I will always be strong for you. You’ve given me that gift.’
“And then, a little while later, he said, ‘I’m ready,’ about six times or so — he just repeated it over and over. And then his very last word was, ‘Giv’er,’” she said with a laugh. “That, I will never forget as long as I live.”
She says it’s his “absolutely brilliant and on-point sense of humor” that she loved most about him, which the world saw first-hand in his obituary.
For example, he wrote that his only regret was that he will not know how “Coronation Street” will end.
Churchill was also a diehard Ches’s Fish and Chips fan; the three-piece feed was his go-to order when he came home to visit. He loved the establishment so much that he requested some of his ashes be spread just outside the restaurant, which Melissa hopes won’t be an issue.
He also requested his ashes be spread on Signal Hill and at the top of Gros Morne Mountain.
It’s part and parcel for a man who lived a life full of what he called “adventures.” After he saw the movie “Bucket List” — about a pair of dying men who make the most of their final days — and long before he found out he had cancer, Churchill made his own bucket list and spent the last 10 years checking things off.
There were some pretty impressive things on that list, including sitting face-to-face and petting a lion, which was one of the last things he checked off the list before he died.
And even though he’s no longer alive, Churchill is not finished with his plans just yet. Melissa says he planned every detail of his funeral, down to the songs, poems and even a sing-a-long.
“It’s going to be quite a celebration,” she said.
Shortly after Melissa, and Churchill’s parents, watched him die at home in what Melissa calls “a beautiful, peaceful, organic, natural ending to a really, really good life well-lived,” his father noted something that Melissa said is absolutely true.
“He taught us all how to live, and he even taught us how to die well, too.”
Churchill suggested in his obituary that everyone should make bucket lists “and start filling them in.”
“Life is short and it only runs out,” he wrote. “So get off your butts and live those lives while you still have them and make sure you really think of what you want to matter on those last days.”