When Austin, TX resident Russell Parsons was diagnosed with Myelofibrosis, he knew he wanted to leave a memorable legacy behind him. To do this, he took his obituary into his own hands, giving out advice about the joys of fast cars, family and how to not be a jerk. Parsons’ last words ensure his humor, compassion and wisdom will live on for many years. Read his words below.
Russell Kent Parsons: 1956-2016
“I passed away on April 17, 2016.
Aside from filling in the date (couldn’t figure out how to do that one without help), I wrote this obituary myself because most obituaries are thrown together at the last minute by grieving relatives and are, quite frankly, dull, boring and uninteresting . I’m hopeful that this one will break that mold. If not, at least it’s not too terribly long and it’s the last time you’ll hear from me.
I was born on June 2, 1956 in Dallas, Texas. I was always very proud to be from Texas although in recent years the politicians we kept electing were a great source of frustration.
I was not an especially spiritual person and tried my best to live by these wise and simple words: “Do the right thing, be nice, and don’t be a jerk”.
I loved my wife, my boys and my friends. While I had some treasured possessions, I tried to remember to “never love anything that can’t love you back”.
I enjoyed good music, good company, Shiner Bock, an occasional gin & tonic and traditional “meat and taters” type food. A nice drive on twisty country roads was a favorite pastime and if there was a good BBQ or burger joint at the end of the drive, all the better.
I did have some strong dislikes including mean people, hypocrites (especially the holier-than-thou types) and most green vegetables.
Although I patiently endured a minivan/SUV phase of life as a proper parent should, I loved fast cars. Taking hot laps on the Circuit of America’s track in my awesome Dodge Challenger was one of my favorite bucket list accomplishments. For those of you who don’t share my love of fast cars, please stay out of the left lane.
Speaking of cars, I’d like to give a shout out to all the folks in the various car clubs (and unclubs) I participated in such as; Sweet Rides, Mopar Enthusiasts of Central Texas and Texas Outlaw Challengers to name a few. What a great assortment of all types of people, from all walks of life, various states of mental health and wild political diversity. All with a shared love of cars and the wonderful feeling that comes from a healthy dose of acceleration, heavy g-forces and loud rock-n-roll.
To all my Facebook friends; I appreciate you putting up with all my political rants over the years. Always up for a good debate, I was somewhat of a policy wonk and appreciated well-reasoned discussion. As a passionate progressive Democrat, I always favored policies that encouraged prosperity for the middle class. I do have a special request for my Republican friends: Please turn off Fox News.
I want to thank all the great folks I met in my years working at Southwestern Bell (which became SBC which became AT&T) and the Health and Human Services Commission. I learned to really appreciate the people who stepped up and made a positive difference and to avoid at all costs the whiners and complainers. I also learned the difference between a good boss and a bad boss. Fortunately, I had more good bosses than bad but man, those few bad ones were a royal pain. Oh well, karma usually takes care of people like that.
After 35 years or so in the workplace I really came to appreciate this quote, “lead, follow or get out of the way”. Whatever path you choose, let it be a positive one.
In 2014, after a trip to Denver, I noticed that any uphill hikes or physical exertion left me incredibly short of breath. Even after accounting for the altitude and more than a few extra pounds I was carrying around, it was obvious that something wasn’t right. So, off to the doctor I went where , after a month or two of tests , I received a diagnosis of Myelofibrosis, a rare and rather nasty form of bone marrow cancer that had made me very anemic. MF is a tricky disorder that doesn’t have the courtesy of killing you quickly or directly; it just makes everything else in your body go nuts so you never quite know what’s going to eventually get you. MF is an MF.
So, words of advice; if you think something isn’t right, go see your doctor. Better safe than sorry and if you wait, it might be too late. There are all sorts of tricky ways nature can get you and no one is immune or immortal. As that great thinker Anonymous said, “never regret growing old, it’s a privilege denied to many”.
I am survived by my lovely wife, Beth, my sons, Will and Brandon, my sister Julie, nieces Ava and Emma and my mother and father, Alice and Neil Parsons. What a great supportive family.
I especially appreciate having my wife, Beth, by my side in these final years. I’m still not sure how I managed to get such a smart, beautiful and caring woman to not only marry me but put up with me all these years. I was a lucky guy.
Being a caregiver isn’t easy and watching someone you’ve shared your life with slowly slip away is rough. She’s tough and independent but I’d appreciate it if those of you that know her would reach out from time to time and share a glass of wine, a drive through the hill country during wildflower season, some good food or just some kind words.
I am most proud of raising two smart, kind, successful young men in Brandon and Will. There will be times where you may feel like you wish I was still around but life doesn’t always work out that way. I hope you’ll carry my presence with you always and know that each of you has great things to look forward to. Trust your instincts, have lots of fun, take some risks and don’t spend too much time at the office.
For those of you whom I’ve offended or wronged at some point, I apologize. For those that may have a fond memory of something nice I did, please pay it forward.
I’m not quite sure what will come next. Perhaps this is it. Perhaps there is an afterlife where I may see some of you again. Perhaps I’ll come back in a different form and get another chance at this. That would be pretty cool. Whatever happens, it’s been a wonderful life. I hope every one of you makes the most of every single minute you have left on this planet.
As the Grateful Dead put it, “what a long, strange trip it’s been”.