Whatever the grim reality, most of us want the enduring memory of the person concerned to be a little rose-tinted, with their more objectionable qualities carefully softened or ignored. Those awkward characters who tell the truth are seen as malicious and embarrassing.
As one journalist notes, obituaries can be little masterpieces of misdescription. An "eccentric" could well be a social outcast, someone with "blokey humour" is likely to be a fierce misogynist, and someone who "enjoyed a tipple" was probably a confirmed alcoholic. There's a vast vocabulary of flattering or at least neutralising terms to help us out.
Obviously no one wants to offend grieving relatives and loved ones, but why go to such absurd lengths to pretend someone was a lovable old rascal when in reality they were a total pain in the neck or even a vicious monster? If that's what they were, why not say so?
It's odd that people don't want to speak ill of the dead,even though it's no longer going to hurt or distress them, yet rabid criticism of the still-living and still-vulnerable goes on all the time.
In any case, however thorough the attempts to clean up someone's image and hide all the skeletons in the closet, sooner or later the truth will out in some no-holds-barred biography or a bit of careless drunken gossip or the chance discovery of some revealing love-letter or diary entry. Secrets seldom stay secret forever.
I really don't care what people say about me after I'm dead, as long as it's not total invention. Of course I can be selfish and argumentative and obsessive and timid and scatty and brusque. So what? I've never pretended to be a saint so why pretend I'm one after I've gone?