Thursday, September 14, 2017

Reading the Obituaries

For years Gary has read the obituaries and I wondered why. Each week he tells me of this person or that person's life.  Still I wonder why he reads the obituaries faithfully each week. What good or benefit could there be to reading the obituaries of folks we don't even know. There are some folks who've led very interesting lives, worked in admirable jobs or professions, are survived by this relative, this many children, or this many grandchildren. But what do these facts have to do with us?

This week Gary told about the obituary of a woman aged 100 who survived three husbands and came to America from Sweden through Ellis Island at the age of 7. There was a man of 48 who enjoyed riding motorcycles and working on old cars and died at home.  Another woman died aged 50 always smiling even through the difficult circumstances of her life. A man aged 74 who loved the outdoors and spent time hunting, fishing and collecting arrowheads died peacefully in his sleep. Two men, the same age as I am, passed away, one suddenly in his home, the other after a brief illness.

The obituaries say the folks are survived by this relative or that one. But I wonder what those who just died have survived. Surely they've survived near misses with death, survived the grief after the loss of a child, a relative or a close friend, survived the loss of a job, or perhaps the loss of a home through flood, fire, or foreclosure, the loss of a car, loss through theft, or survived a crime of passion. These folks have lived and survived much, their death, their obituary seems so much less important to me.

Then I realize I'm alive. More than several folks have died this week younger or the same age as me. I think of all I've survived. I survived the trials of childhood both good and bad, I survived the missteps of young adulthood. I survived near misses with death from accidents and several diseases. I survived the effects of ill health which made me wish for death. I've survived the death of my grandmother, brother and mother, the loss of friendships recent and past, the loss of jobs at my doing or not, the loss of homes or careers out of necessity or desire. I'm suddenly so grateful to be alive.

Some of the obituaries say folks worked at such and such job for 30, 40, 50 years; they taught sunday school for 50 years; they were a prayer warrior for those in need all their lives; they volunteered at the hospital for 20 years; or they were a member of this church or that one. What could my obituary say about me? I haven't worked somewhere for 30, 40 or 50 years, but I've worked hard in lots of places all my life. I don't teach sunday school. I'm not known as a prayer warrior but inwardly I pray. I'm not a member of an organized church but I frequently visit my own church in my thoughts.

Further down in each obituary it says the person's relatives are left with their loved ones memories to cherish. I wonder what that means; why are cherished memories emphasized in each obituary? Then it dawns on me. The memories we leave behind are the best of ourselves. Oh sure some may work hard or go to church or leave money or special items for loved ones or friends to inherit, but the memories we leave for others are the best of what we leave. The obituaries tell us of the passing of someone but memories will always remind us of the essence of the person who lived and died. The obituaries remind me that creating memories for others is the best I can do for those who know me and for those who do not.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent thoughts to ponder. Yes, we stay alive through our memories of each other...a way that our own lives continue through generations. I think that's why I'm interested in ancestors, bringing their lives forward to today, and appreciating how I depend upon them.

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    1. Hi Barbara, thanks, I never thought about this till now although I often think of my grandmother and wish I knew more about my cherokee heritage.

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  2. You have hit on the essence of the obituary. I sometimes can see the subject smiling before drifting away.

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    1. Hi Joanne, thanks, yes hopefully they are smiling and knowing they were well loved.

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  3. I read obituaries and death notices for similar reasons. Some of them are fascinating, and in many the impact the person has made,perhaps not on the world but certainly on those who loved them, is so very evident.

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    1. Hi Sue, thanks, yes seeminly ordinary folks are not ordinary at all.

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  4. I only ever read the UK's Daily Telegraph Obits page. My old school uses the paper as its 'official' organ for informing fellow old boys of their passings. No doubt my own name will one day appear on its page.

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    1. Hi Cro Magnon, thanks, yes something to ponder on what our own obituary will say.

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