I am now almost 95 and see myself in bigger dimensions.

“My Obituary” sounds odd as a title, but I have been thinking about it for a while, perhaps because the man who was the father of my children died recently and my children got together to compose his obituary.

I realized I needed to explain who I was, I the person who just died, not the person who was the mother of my children or the first wife of that man.

Many years ago, I attended a therapy group in which the first assignment was to write our own obituary as a way of identifying yourself in the group. I gave my birth and death dates, my husband’s and my children’s names and called it quits as sufficient for an identification in the group and in the obituary page of The Boston Globe.

I am now almost 95 and see myself in bigger dimensions.

The biggest part of me is my history, not my motherhood nor my status as wife for more than sixty years. My history prior to my birth. My place in a chain of people who came before me, and gave me shape simply because my body and my mind are largely the result of their place in my biological history.

I am a piece of all of them. After I was born, I made my own history which consisted of a blender full of past bits and pieces with daily additions from a life lived serendipitously and intentionally.

The atmosphere in which I was raised, the home setting, the social position of my parents, my place in history. The last was unusually dramatic in my case as I was newborn at a time when Fascism grew to be a monster, and my family, my situation, and I became victims.

I want all of that to be known since I am the last survivor of that period, the only one left who witnessed the past, speaks the language and will take all that out of circulation with my death.

As yet I had contributed nothing of my own to the story of my life.  Things happened but to understand this obituary, some of these external data should be mentioned to help give credence to the unfolding of the story.

Things have changed. The times have changed, I am much. much older and I have a vastly extended view of myself as an individual who made her own story through choices, actions, taste, and connections, albeit always as a continuation of a past that lay and still lies heavily on my back.

The way I look is an amalgam of the maternal and the paternal gene pattern. I choose my appearance, but I resemble my mother. My intelligence is inherited; my opinions and my education are my own. My values are mine, my social position is another amalgam of past and present, a mix of parents and marriages, an attempt to make sense of the world as I live it.

How much of any of this needs to go into an obituary? In my case, nothing.

I shall be simply listed by my dates, place of birth and place of death. Names of children and husband. The rest is private and wishes to remain private. The complexity of a life cannot be summarized and need not be known by the newspaper reader. Those left living who feel the loss know what they need to know.

Mine was not a political life. My life was always private.

~ Renée Levine