How do you write an elegy for a man who was hospitalized for swallowing a bee while drinking beer and created a buzz at his next outing by donning a bee costume?
Jean Lahm, of Lowell, a community relations director for Northwest Indiana's Geisen Funeral Homes, had to send her father off with a chuckle last month when she wrote his obituary.
It begins: "Terry Wayne Ward, age 71, of DeMotte, escaped this mortal realm on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018, leaving behind 32 jars of Miracle Whip, 17 boxes of Hamburger Helper and multitudes of other random items that would prove helpful in the event of a zombie apocalypse."
It goes on to say her dad and "his overly-patient and accepting wife Kathy ... wed in the fall of 1969, perfectly between the Summer of Love and the Winter of Regret."
Her tribute was picked up by the national media and has spread, like infectious laughter, on the internet.
Lahm said, "I’ve been blown away with how viral it went. I've heard the number is in the hundreds of thousands in terms of impressions on Facebook.
"I've been interviewed by CNN, The Washington Post, the New York Post, the 'Today' show, 'Inside Edition' and WGN News," she said. "It's unbelievable. He would have loved the obituary. I can just picture him laughing heartily up there about how everything unfolded."
She mixes exposition with humor, noting he went to high school in the south suburbs, was a Vietnam veteran and a lineman — not for the NFL but for the AT&T telephone company.
"Terry died knowing that 'The Blues Brothers' was the best movie ever, (young) Clint Eastwood was the baddest-ass man on the planet, and hot sauce can be added to absolutely any food," she wrote.
Lahm recalls, "He was always joking around. While I was in high school, he would do embarrassing things when we were in public, like get up on some empty stage or gazebo and sing. We figured out that if we would just have to roll with that."
When he died, she said she knew she had to do something more than the routine death notice.
"I'm in the business. I work for Geisen Funeral Home. At some point, I stumbled on Legacy.com, which has a compilation of funny obituaries. Since my dad was such an incredibly funny guy and his whole life was about humor, there was no doubt in my mind when the time came. I'll make it funny," she said. "There was just no other way to write it."