Final Words: The Best of Jane Lotter

Jane LotterLatest to make the rounds on Facebook and Twitter are references to a remarkable self-penned obituary by a Seattle writer, the late Jane Lotter.

When I saw the Lotter name, I was stunned, for I was lucky enough to have known the witty and personable Jane Lotter during my former career as a Seattle Times columnist. And, as it turns out, the New York Time story that prompted the Twitter is only part of Jane’s story.

Jane Lotter also wrote a show-stopping obit for her mother, the late Margaret Anne Lotter. The words about her late mother were so exceptionally touching that in August, 1999, I called attention in my column to the obituary that had appeared in the Death and Funeral Notices in the Seattle Times. And then I went on to write about it once again in a Times’ column published in May, 2000.

Jane told us about her parents: “Margaret (Robertson) and Mike Lotter were encouraged in romance by the New Latona Hotel’s residents who, on the occasion of the couple’s 1940 wedding presented them with an iron and ironing board. Thus began Margaret’s lifelong commitment to pressing everything made of cloth.”

Another line from that warm-hearted funeral notice: “Margaret taught her children the delights of ‘Winnie the Pooh,’ the enchantment of reading and the rewards of an excellent dictionary.” Jane wrote that her mother often broke into song out of sheer joy. One family favorite, so memorable that the family sang the words at Mrs. Lotter’s grave site, a brisk old ballad: “Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight, Mother Darling.”

Humorous writing, penning a weekly humor column, and publishing a novel were Jane Lotter’s favorite pastimes. So pleased was she to reach readers that she e-published her humorous novel (“The Bette Davis Club,” still available at Amazon.com).  After I wrote about her unconventional obituary for her mother, Jane called and we became occasional phone companions, sharing the delight we both took in writing as a way of talking to readers.

In her obituary, she wrote, “One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen, is that you have time to write your own obituary. (The other advantages are no longer bothering with sunscreen and no longer worrying about your cholesterol.)”

She continued, “I was given the gift of life and now I have to give it back. This is hard. But I was a lucky woman, who led a lucky existence for this I am grateful.”

In Jane’s case, her obituary has resulted in a reach far beyond the grave, to tell others what it’s like to share the love of family, to know that she was dying and to use her last hours  to say goodbye before choosing to take advantage of the state’s Death With Dignity Act.

At her memorial service held Sunday, Aug. 4, at Green Lake, Bob Martis, her husband of nearly 30 years, handed out buttons with the words: “Beautiful Day, Happy to have been here.”

I wasn’t able to be there, but, in her memory, I’ve been humming (off key, the only way I know how) the words to “Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight, Jane Darling.”

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