Thursday, August 20, 2009

Morning reading

I read obituaries. I've been doing this since I was a teenager. When I first started reading them, I never knew anyone at all. Then gradually, I would see a name I recognized - a friend's parent or the corner grocery store guy when I was a kid. But then, as I grew up and my world expanded with university, then work, I knew more people. Now, after lots of jobs (paid and volunteer), with my kids all grown up, there's a huge network of people I've known through the years. Reading the obituaries now takes on more meaning.

I don't read them just because I might know someone, though. I enjoy the stories. It's too bad that people have to wait until they're gone for the stories to be told. Some obits tell a better story than others. And some folks have a longer story. But, we all have one. I especially like a story with a photo. And the best photos are two: one from their youth and one that is more current. It's interesting to see how life has told its story on the face.

It's considered not quite nice to tell your own story. But wouldn't it be good to have some input? I know how hard it was to write about my Dad when he died. All the practical stuff like cost and which papers and how long should it be? Photos or not? Just the facts? What facts? Or should it be creative, fun or even funny? There are all kinds written. And if the event is unexpected, it becomes even harder to make all those decisions.

This all came to me this morning as I read a particularly creative entry. I felt like a teacher giving marks for essays - and this one got very high marks. I wondered if the man had participated as it seemed so personal. Had he told them what to write? And how to say it?

I know that no one writes an obituary for my personal entertainment. And that's not really how I look at it. I am as appreciative of the effort as I am the sadness at the loss of a person who is loved. But, it's the stories. Sometimes, when I read about a person I have known, I am blown away by what they have done. No one knew. They never talked about their achievements since they probably didn't think much of them. Or they were so far in the past. Or even that time and memory loss had erased the story.

All of the above is probably a reflection of human nature. I wish I'd listened more when my parents were there to tell me the stories. I wish it were easier to know what elderly people have done in their lives before they are gone. I'm so glad that some people have managed to capture those memories and experiences. And I applaud their ability to present the story in a capsule form. And I thank them.


Mimi said...

I'm with you on this one, Stephanie. I feel sad when, after someone has died, their lovely qualities and their achievements are recognised, if they maybe haven't been recognised when they were alive.
It would be fun to write our own obituary, or have input. Would we be too modest?

Rudee said...

Ahhh. The ultimate Curriculum Vitae! I agree that it would be nice to have input if possible. I will tell you, and since death is my business, I think I can, most people don't want to discuss their impending demise--let alone write their own obit.

I don't get that, but since nobody has ever told me I'm dying, I respect it just the same. I may not be in a mood to write my own when the time comes.

Rarely, I come across a patient who has every little thing in order with specific written instructions about their own funerals. One had a medical class graduating photo hung in his foyer. All of the doctors crossed out were the ones who had died. Of a hundred of them, he was one of the few survivors of his very early med class. I got a good chuckle out of that picture.

I appreciate good stories from and about people, too.

hip chick said...

Wonderful post. My papa used to read the obits all the time. He called them the Irish funnies.

Joanna said...

An interesting and thoughtful post Stephanie. I like the idea of telling your own story although maybe it would be better to have someone tell it about you. It's easier to write glowing things about someone else than to write them yourself. And yes, we shouldn't have to wait until someone has died to learn about their achievements and their life.


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