Some may think reading the obituaries proves an unhealthy mental state; a morbid pasttime. Au contraire, such perusal can be both entertaining and enlightening.
While reading the Sunday Irish Independent newspaper, I clicked at the various sections, including the obits. What a fascinating read: a mini biography in small column form!
Certainly, our Americanized death notices are dry day-old white bread in comparison:
HIS bleached hair, pink sweaters and Hawaiian shirts aside, there was little to choose between Jim 'Doris Day' Gray and fellow UDA brigadier drug dealer Johnny Adair.
While Adair fled to Bolton and relative safety, Gray's flight to the Costa del Sol via Dublin was thwarted at Banbridge in Co Down earlier this year. Until High Court bail was granted very recently, at his insistence, he had enjoyed the sanctuary of accommodation at Her Majesty's Prison at Maghaberry.
Born in 1958 into a respectable working-class family living in the Woodstock area of East Belfast, the towering teenager with a promising golf career beckoning chose the street actions of the UDA's tartan gangs as the elixir to literally change his ambitions of wealth into the impressive gold baubles which came to be a trademark of his malevolent affluence.
His first job in Shorts aircraft factory in East Belfast home didn't last long as Gray became increasingly entangled with the UDA in the area. His marriage to teenage sweetheart Anne Tedford ended after four years when she walked out after a police raid imbued her memory with the image of her son, Jonathan, screaming in his cot as their home was searched.
With the family split, young Jonathan spent a lot of his time with his grandmother while his father effectively and brutally pursued his paramilitary career and rose through the ranks of the Ulster Defence Association.
By the time he was in his mid teens Jonathan Gray, like his father, was a heavy user of drugs. In 2001, in a Thailand hotel room, aged just 19, Jonathan died from a drugs overdose while his father was buying local prostitutes in a nearby room out of the paramilitary wealth he had garnered in Belfast.
Gray, the liar, the gangster and the paramilitary leader pretended that he had flown to Thailand especially to bring home the body of his only son, declining to reveal to his estranged wife how their child had actually died.
He concocted a story of an allergic reaction to an inoculation jab before the holiday as the cause of Jonathan's death to try to cover up his complicity in the squalid hotel bereavement.
Unchastened by his son's death Gray continued to plunder his UDA fiefdom in East Belfast, battering and bullying to get his way and garner more wealth for the 'Brigadier of Bling', as he was christened by the tabloid media.
His actions were an embarrassment different to the challenge of Adair to the more reserved fellow members of the UDA's ruling Inner Council, who had endorsed the ousting of Adair from his Shankill fiefdom two years earlier.
Gray's plans for greater wealth through large investments in property development placed his personal crime ambitions way beyond even Adair's greedy cravings.
Deposed as a brigadier last April, and in custody, he was relatively safe from the talons of erstwhile UDA associates seeking revenge for the hurt he had inflicted with his fists and guns over two decades.
When a fortnight ago he declined to heed a further warning to stop throwing his weight around in the East Belfast area he once controlled, Gray's slaying was sanctioned and he met the type of destiny meted out to similarly disfavoured Mafia godfathers.
The scratch golfer who had the life of bling perfected to a T, ended up on the wrong course hounded to death by the bogeys he created.
All the above being said, I would prefer my own obituary to leave out such personal facts, including but not limited to: my sense of fashion, my taste in hairdos, or my criminal record (if I acquire one between now and the grave).
Something along these lines would be just the marker:
STEEL TRUE, BLADE STRAIGHT
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
AS THE FLOWERS ARE ALL MADE SWEETER BY THE SUNSHINE AND THE DEW
SO THIS OLD WORLD IS MADE BRIGHTER BY THE LIVES
OF FOLKS LIKE YOU
Bonnie Parker ( some other folks might have felt a little differently about Sweet Bonnie!)
SHE DID IT THE HARD WAY
STRANGER! APPROACH THIS SPOT WITH GRAVITY!
JOHN BROWN IS FILLING HIS LAST CAVITY!
Burial of dentist, John Brown
MURDERD BY A TRAITOR AND A COWARD WHOSE
NAME IS NOT WORTHY TO APPEAR HERE
And the best for last:
I AM READY TO MEET MY MAKER.
WHETHER MY MAKER IS PREPARED FOR THE GREAT ORDEAL
OF MEETING ME IS ANOTHER MATTER.
Sir Winston Churchill