I was sitting in the morning sun in my living room recently when I started to think about what people would say at my funeral. I began putting together a playlist in my head of Foo Fighter songs that I would make for before and after the memorial service. I wanted them to have fun and dance instead of cry. The last thing my mother said was, “Don’t cry.” I hoped they would share stories about the pranks I was able to pull off, and the ones I still had in mind.
And, as it often happens when we’d rather be doing something other than meditating, words started to flow in my head and I heard a grandiose voice reading my obituary. So I got a pen and began to write it down.
Why shouldn’t a writer write her own obituary? After all, Zen monks and haiku poets have been writing death bed poems for centuries. Jisei, they are called, like this one from Chiyoni:
I saw the moon as well
and now, world,
So with the intention of having fun and relieving my relatives of the duty to satisfy future ancestry newspaper searches, here is my obituary:
Melissa J White of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was born in LaGrange, IL, April 12, 1961, exactly one hundred years to the hour after the Civil War began. She passed away peacefully in her dreams on a [rainy/sunny/snowy/beautiful] [day, date] in her home facing her garden and the tall cottonwoods she and her daughter had planted.
Born of Margaret Thomis (née Rector) from Paducah, KY, and Robert Meredith White of Laud, IN, she in turn gave birth in water to Talaya White and Colin Strauch, and in air to Asher Strauch.
Melissa enjoyed life in New Mexico with her sisters Roberta Anne White and Margaret Amy White, and had the stellar company of her tuxedo cat, Mint—short for Imminent—of Española.
Melissa received her BA from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, and a post-graduate degree in Screenwriting. She went back to school during the pandemic and received a Certificate in Criminal Investigation and an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies in [2022?].
Melissa was devoted to writing. Her first book, “Dizzy Sushi,” about her year teaching English conversation in Japan, was published by Tres Chicas Books in 2013. She self-published “Angel Someone” about pet loss in 2017, and [hurry up and write more!]. Her short films include “Wastewater,” and her screenplays, “Goethe’s Theory of Color,” and, “ID.”
She won awards for her writing and advertising design including ADDYs, the Recursos Discovery Award, a New Mexican newspaper writing contest, and the Henry James Prize for Poetry upon graduation from St. John’s.
In 2020 she received Jukai from Roshi Joan Halifax in the White Plum Asanga, and was given the name Nenshin, meaning quiet faith.
The many incredible friends she made at work and volunteering were an inspiration and a joy, including those from “Indian Artist” Magazine, Impressions Advertising, Sotheby’s, the Santa Fe Opera, Upaya Zen Center, and her own businesses, Whitespace Creative, Blogshop, and Facing Pages.
Melissa thanks her teachers for guiding her through this life, those from LaGrange Highlands, Lyons Township High School, St. John’s College, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Santa Fe Community College, and Upaya Zen Center.
Melissa now joins the ancestors, and has discovered the answer to the great mystery. She hopes she will meet many of you again in the next life, but not all of you—you know who you are.