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In Praise of the Goofy Obituary

A Minnesota man facing a terminal brain tumor worked with his wife to get the ultimate last laugh

It’s not every day an obituary goes viral. But for Aaron Joseph Purmort, who passed away last Tuesday, that seems like a pretty fitting remembrance. Purmort and his wife Nora had been both incredibly open and incredibly humorous about the brain tumor diagnosis Purmort received in 2011, just a short time after he began dating Nora. The poignant tale of the couple’s past three years—which included seizures on Halloween, a rushed wedding a few weeks later, chemotherapy, brain surgery, the birth of their son Ralph, and a recurrence of the tumor—was chronicled by Nora on her Tumblr page. A Minneapolis news station did a segment on the local couple’s meet-cute story, noting how they followed each other on Facebook and Twitter before meeting in person. Their wedding was streamed live.

After learning the treatment plan would likely not save Purmort, the couple wrote his obituary together. A big fan of Peter Parker’s alter-ego, the obituary attributed Purmort’s cause of death to “complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer, who has plagued our society for far too long.” It also casually mentioned his being survived by “first wife Gwen Stefani,” and a lot of other jokes that are probably much funnier to those who knew him than to random readers of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, but funny all the same.

Thanks to that sense of humor, introducing thousands of strangers to a man they’ll never get to meet via his obituary, cancer patients and their caretakers now have another resource (in the form of Nora’s Tumblr) to find comfort, and even joy, in. And the surviving Purmorts have already met their first crowdfunding goal to help pay for Purmort’s hospice and Ralph’s future.

Why do we love the humorous obits of those we never knew? Maybe because they’re a big middle finger to the grim reaper, a reminder that even the heaviest circumstances can’t break a light spirit, and an acknowledgment that while illness and aging often overtake a person’s final years and days, in this small way one can finally take back the narrative of their life, even in just a few words.

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