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"Be happy you knew me": Grandmother leaves legacy of laughter, spunk for family

Jean Oddi taught her daughter and granddaughter to be honest, to love, and how to leave an impression... even after her death.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

"Don't cry because I'm gone. Instead, have a drink and be happy you knew me. Maybe you can cry a little bit, because, after all, I died."

It's a sign of a life well-lived when your obituary goes viral, so Jean Oddi of Columbus, Ohio, did something very right.

The 91-year-old passed away last week, but thousands of people have gotten to know the woman — known by her family as "The Queen of Sass" — since then through her no-holds-barred obituary in the Columbus Dispatch after her death Feb. 20.

Jean Oddi, 91, passed away Feb. 20, but she left a legacy of spunk and wisdom for her only daughter, Casey Oddi Clark, and her only granddaughter, Melissa Falter.Casey Oddi Clark

Written in first person, Oddi's obituary did not contain the usual information about the life of the deceased. Instead, it included personal shout-outs, snarky asides, and even the occasional salty language: "I loved the smell of lavender, drinking hot coffee, teaching my granddaughter dirty songs, telling jokes and stories from the bad old days, cooking and eating, hosting huge holiday meals, baking pizzelles, cookies and cakes, including one that takes 4 days!"

Oddi's granddaughter, Melissa Falter, wrote the obituary in her grandmother's voice before she passed away, Oddi's daughter, Casey Oddi Clark, told TODAY Parents. "Mom always said, 'Just put I was born, I lived, and I died.' My daughter started writing her obituary with that, and the rest just came out. I added a few stories, and we had what we felt was an obit my mom would have loved."

Though she was already unresponsive, Falter read the obituary to her grandmother in the hospital. "Mom would have loved every word!" said Clark. "Everyone who knew her who reads it says it's totally her in every word. They say they can hear her reading it."

In the obituary, Falter wrote in her grandmother's voice: "Please remember this: never let the facts get in the way of a good story; the middle finger is sign language; when someone gives, take; when someone takes, scream; and take care of yourself, don't get old. Oh, and don't tell anyone what kind of day to have."

Jean Oddi, the "Queen of Sass," in a picture of her as a young woman.Casey Oddi Clark

"She was absolutely feisty, funny, bold, honest and tender," said Clark of her mother. "She was a force; she said and did whatever she wanted regardless of the consequences. She was very witty and clever she had an answer for everything and gave it to you if you wanted it or not."

Being her mother’s only child was an adventure, Clark said, and the biggest parenting lesson she learned from her was to never let her own only child question her love for her.

"We have always been close and always known how much love we have for each other," said Clark. "We could and can tell each other everything."

Jean Oddi and her dog, Lucy.Casey Oddi Clark

Oddi's family celebrated her life this weekend, and her daughter said, "As Mom would say, 'Hell, yes' we will have a drink in her honor; we will absolutely be raising a glass of Jameson to her. Her only request was for us to have an open bar."

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Now that her obituary has gone viral, strangers are leaving messages in the online guestbook, claiming regret they could not have known the woman herself. A woman that her daughter said touched many lives in life is now touching them in death, and her family hopes her legacy will live on.

"We will tell and listen to hundreds of stories about her, laugh and cry at the memories and be thankful we had such an amazing woman in her life. When all the crazy is over, we will then mourn the loss of a one-of-a-kind woman," Clark said.