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When is a good time to tell the truth?

July 23, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen 

The obvious answer is always, of course! I will say that I have not always been honest and a few little mistruths might have crept out of my mouth every now and then. Very few times, mind you!

But in any event, I admit that I have told a few stories in my time. I hate to say it, but sometimes, it just feels easier to say something that might not be totally accurate in order to save face, avoid hurting someone’s feelings or whatever the reason. It isn’t right, but sometimes you just do what feels right, even if you end up regretting it later.

Telling the truth after you have told a lie though, that is the hard part. Do you fess up? If so, how do you do it?

Being up front is one way to do it, but Val Patterson from Utah had a unique way to spread the truth about some things he had said or done in his past: he came clean in his obituary!

Now, I am not suggesting that this should start a new trend, but his obituary was not only clever and entertaining, it also had a message.

The obituary, which he wrote months before he died from throat cancer, was much more like a letter to those who both knew him and never heard of him.

What comes through in his writing is that he was a man who truly loved life and cherished his wife.

“I was a true Scientist. Electronics, chemistry, physics, auto mechanic, wood worker, artist, inventor, business man, ribald comedian, husband, brother, son, cat lover, cynic. I had a lot of fun. It was an honor for me to be friends with some truly great people,” Patterson wrote.

And he went on to say this about this wife, “But, the one special thing that made my spirit whole, is my long love and friendship with my remarkable wife, my beloved Mary Jane. I loved her more than I have words to express. Every moment spent with my Mary Jane was time spent wisely.”

I am sure those words provided comfort for his wife, as well as those who knew him best.

Then Patterson says the following: “Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should say now.”

Admitting to being the one who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in 1971, Patterson also admitted that he wasn’t quite who his “title” proclaimed him to be.

“Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn’t even graduate,” he wrote. Patterson said that he in fact only had three years of college credits.

Patterson also reminisced about his youth, telling his friends that they grew up in the best time in American history to grow up. “The best music, muscle cars, cheap gas, fun kegs … TV was boring back then, so we went outside and actually had lives. We always tried to have as much fun as possible without doing harm to anybody — we did a good job at that.”

But he did express one regret: smoking. Saying that he felt bad for robbing his wife of more years or happiness together, Patterson said, “I feel such the “thief” now — for stealing so much from her — there is no pill I can take to erase that pain.”

I have checked various sources to verify that this story is true, but even if it wasn’t, would you use your obituary, your final goodbye, to admit to wrong doing? Even though my dad has passed, I will admit, I was the one who put his foot through the window well cover back in the early 1980’s. Sorry.

One less thing I can keep out of my obituary!

If you want to read the full obituary, just do an internet search for “Val Patterson Obituary.”

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