Here’s a funny thing about these B.Y.O.E. events, that is, Bring Your Own Eulogy: So much of the time those anecdotes are maybe a bit more about the speakers than the, er, guest of honor. If you’re in a down mood today — and a memorial generally is NOT a happy hour — you could say that once again here’s another example of the me-me-me 21st century. Yet, how can you tell stories about another person without you as the narrator, you as the re-actor or even you as the “inciting incident”?
Perhaps more than other people, one part of William Mayes Flanagan‘s artistry is how he brought out the life spirit in others. This Happy Hour has begun.
In 1988 I created Bill Flanagan. In 1999 I met Bill.
In 1988 I was in Little Rock, responsible for national and international news at the Arkansas Democrat. On the side, I began a humor column. It was published in a weekly mailed edition of the newspaper. Being a student of the genre, my humor pieces went all over the map — essay, satire and narrative. The last really is a form of “flash fiction,” as in ultra-short made-up stories.
That fall 29 years ago I introduced a character who was middle-aged; opinionated; encouraging and happy; a groundskeeper and a watercolor painter. Indeed!
Now, a few weeks ago, days after Bill passed, I ran into Emily Kaitz in the parking lot of Ozark Natural Foods. I told her this anecdote, that it was not authentically, obviously about our friend Bill Flanagan. Also, this has a clairvoyant, ESP quality to it, and we’re rationalists. But Emily disagreed. She advised that this is the story I need to tell. Because she feels it. She can empathize with the deja-vu-ness of it. Continue reading