May 11—Although Dr. Thomas Flanigan would never send out Christmas cards to his friends and family, he did send out letters for New Year's, which were always designed to be a collection of funny reflections of the past year.
When Dr. Flanigan died last month, his loved ones thought that putting together an obit in that same style would be fitting. It would be an opportunity to bring a smile to those who had enjoyed his letters throughout the years.
"It's supposed to be very humorous," Dr. Flanigan's longtime friend, Dan Forthoffer, said about the annual letters that Dr. Flanigan used to send. "We decided to do the obituary in that spirit."
None of them thought it would go viral.
"We never expected that anyone would look that deeply into it," Mr. Forthoffer said.
And although Mr. Forthoffer understands how someone reading it might think that Dr. Flanigan wrote it himself, those who put it together never meant for that to be the takeaway.
"There was probably seven of us who contributed on it," he said.
"I know it's impossible to believe, but I, the Ginger God of Surgery and Shenanigans, have fought my last cow (you're welcome Tim) and ridden off into the glorious sunset after re-enlisting with a new unit," one passage of the obituary reads. "Due to the unknown and cosmic nature of my next mission, this will be our last communication. It will self-destruct in five minutes. My whereabouts are now top secret, but let's just say I have made some new friends by the names of Elvis and Kenny."
In an email statement, Dr. Flanigan's wife Amy Flanigan said that his family knew they didn't want a typical obituary with a list of life events and accomplishments.
"We wanted it to sound like him and really represent the blunt, humorous personality he openly shared with everyone he met," she said.
She said she believes that he would be laughing about his obituary being shared around in the world and featured in publications such as the Daily Mail and New York Post.
"As we struggle to think of life without him, we are so grateful that the amazing life he led is being shared around the world and bringing a smile to so many one last time," she said.
Dr. Flanigan died April 27 of an undetermined medical issue. He was 48 years old. He was born Oct. 31, 1972.
He was a surgeon with a local medical office, served in the U.S. Army and did multiple tours in Iraq, and was married with three children.
Mr. Forthoffer said he and Dr. Flanigan first met at Northern Michigan University, where they were fraternity brothers, and then later attended Wayne State University, where Dr. Flanigan completed medical school and Mr. Forthoffer completed post-graduate school.
After Wayne State, they ended up neighbors in Grosse Pointe, Mich., Mr. Forthoffer said. About seven years ago, Dr. Flanigan moved to Toledo.
"He was a great friend," Mr. Forthoffer said. "He was the kind of guy who would do anything to help you out."
When Dr. Flanigan died, Mr. Forthoffer said it took about a week for it to sink in. Once Dr. Flanigan moved to Toledo, the get-togethers became monthly or bimonthly.
Mr. Forthoffer said he's happy that the obituary went viral because it allowed so many more people to learn about the kind of person Dr. Flanigan was. And he likes to think that Dr. Flanigan would have gotten a kick out of it, too.
"I think he would have loved it," Mr. Forthoffer said. "I hope he would have loved it."
First Published May 10, 2021, 7:02pm