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Man who wrote brutal 'truth' about his father in obit says it helped him heal

Lawrence Pfaff Jr. wrote that his father was "incapable of love," among other harsh criticisms in his obituary, published in Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The author of a no-holds-barred obituary that called his father a narcissist who was "incapable of love," says that he didn't write the viral piece out of hate, or because he's holding grudges. 

He wrote it to heal.

Lawrence Pfaff Jr. (son of Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr.) submitted an obituary to the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville that was highly unusual. Tucked between heartfelt stories of loved ones lost, Pfaff Jr.'s tribute took an opposite approach, writing what he truly felt about his father -- that he was a "narcissist," and an "abusive alcoholic" whose death showed that "evil does eventually die."

Pfaff Jr. said he started writing the obituary before his father was even dead to process his feelings.

"Writing his obituary was a way for me to really cleanse myself and let that part of my life go. And so a year ago, I sat down and began to write it, not knowing I would have an opportunity in the near future to use it," he said. Then his father died in June.

In the obituary, Pfaff Jr. writes about how his father was a father to many but a "dad to none." He told First Coast News he tried to sustain a relationship with his father earlier in his life, but had been estranged from him for around 30 years.

"I went through my adult life and realized that nothing was working, that I was broken, and I was damaged by the alcohol and alcohol abusive, I kept continuing to seek help and make myself better," he said.

One of the ways he did that was putting his feelings toward his father on paper, and once he died, he submitted that obituary to the Times-Union. 

"He's had 30 years since we've stopped talking to profess his truth," he said. "And so now it's my turn to profess my truth." 

Pfaff Jr. says that many people have reached out to thank him for his honest account of his life with his father.  

"I got a call from somebody in St. Augustine that found me and wanted to thank me for posting that because, you know, they had a similar life, and they wanted to be able to do something similar to help heal," he said. "They just thanked me for, you know, the honesty."

The obit form says that submissions must comport with "editorial guidelines," but does not specify what those are. By law, it is not possible to defame a dead person.

Gannett, the company that owns The Florida Times-Union, wrote the following statement: “We regrettably published an obituary that did not adhere to our guidelines and we are looking into the matter further. We regret any distress this may have caused."

If you or a family member are struggling with alcoholism, there are resources that can help. You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for a treatment referral. You can also visit the alcoholic's anonymous website at www.aa.org.

The obituary can be read in full here: 

"Lawrence H Pfaff Sr. was born in Belmont, NY, on April 16, 1941. He passed away on June 27, 2022, living a long life, much longer than he deserved. He is survived by his three children, no four. Oops, five children. Well as of 2022 we believe there is one more that we know about, but there could be more. His love was abundant when it came to himself, but for his children it was limited. From a young age, he was a ladies' man and an abusive alcoholic, solidifying his commitment to both with the path of destruction he left behind, damaging his adult children, and leaving them broken.
Lawrence, Sr's hobbies included abusing his first wife and children. He loved to start projects but never followed through on any of them. He enjoyed the life of a bar fly for many years and had a quaint little living space, studio, above his favorite hole in the wall, the club Nashville.
Lawrence, Sr. did spend over 20 years in the NYPD, but even his time in service was negligent at best. Because of his alcohol addiction, his Commanding Officer took away his gun and badge, replacing them with a broom until he could get his act together.
Lawrence, Sr. did claim to be clean and sober for over thirty years, but never worked any of the twelve steps, including the eighth and ninth steps with his children, making amends. He possesses no redeeming qualities for his children, including the ones he knew, and the "ones he knew about.”
It will be challenging to miss Lawrence, Sr. because he was narcissistic. He was incapable of love. Lawrence, Sr.'s passing proves that evil does eventually die, and it marks a time of healing, which will allow his children to get the closure they deserve. Lawrence, Sr. can be remembered for being a father to many, and a dad to none."

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