Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Reading obituaries

11 Comments

Who else does this? I’ve always read obituaries, especially back in the days of paper newspapers. I remember the Sunday editions had pages of them and I read them all. I particularly focused on those people close to my age, tried to figure out what killed them, so as to reassure myself that something like that couldn’t happen to me.

A little over a year ago I looked up someone’s obit, I can’t remember who, but it was someone from my hometown. I ended up at the website of the local funeral home, a funeral home that’s been in town forever, whose family owners went to the church I attended as a kid.

A flock of wood ducks.

I signed up for an email notification whenever they have another person’s obituary. I’ve found that a lot of people that went to my church as a kid have now passed through this particular funeral home.

It’s an odd feeling when I see the notification in my emails. I always take a deep breath before I click on the link to see who it was. Lots of times it’s not someone I know, not a name from my childood, not a friend of my parents, or worse, a friend of mine. But sometimes it is someone I know’s parent or sister or brother, or child.

Beaver damage.

Sometimes it’s not anyone I know, but after reading the obituary I sort of wish I had known them. Today there were three, and a couple of them struck me. The best obit opening line I’ve ever read showed up today:

“Michael XXXX, age 73 of Howell Michigan, passed away on the golf course after a frustrating double-bogey on March …” Even though I’m not a golfer I smiled as I read that first sentence. And if you can make people smile while reading your obituary, well, you’re a pretty special person in a pretty special family.

Talkative robin.

And this man was someone five years younger than me that I would have enjoyed talking to:

“Mxxx strongly believed in education. He earned Masters Degrees in Economics from Indiana State University, Business Administration from Lewis University, and Information and Library Science from Wayne State University. He was a volunteer at the Salvation Army and the Livingston County Democratic Party. He was passionate about politics, the Chicago White Sox, and the music of Bruce Springsteen.”

I wish everyone’s obituary shared such interesting and fun bits of information. I’ve often thought I’d like to write obituaries. During such a stressful time I would want families not to have to come up with it on their own. And the help from funeral homes isn’t always much more than a fill in the blank option.

I would want families to look back at that obituary and know it summed up their loved one just exactly right. A last gift to the family I guess.

Anyway…how many of you read stranger’s obituaries and consider whether they were lucky to live a full life, how many of you feel grateful for your own life when you read an obituary for someone your age, or someone who seemed to have so few loved ones left.

Or am I just odd? Maybe you shouldn’t answer that.

Reflections.

Pictures today are from my walk last week at the Shiawasee Wildlife Preserve. I still don’t have editing capabilities, so I looked for images that you could enjoy straight out of the camera. They don’t have anything to do with obituaries, but that’s OK. I know you can deal with it.

And somewhere along the line I started getting my captions in the picture, which is sort of OK, except it darkens the picture. And I haven’t figured out how to get the captions out of there. Or even to delete the whole image. So you’ll have to image that these are decent pictures with interesting colors and stuff.

Seriously WordPress, don’t you realize we already have a lot on our plates?

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

11 thoughts on “Reading obituaries

  1. I don’t generally read obituaries. In fact my husband and I were just talking about them over the weekend. We’re not sure we’d want ours published online, and because there’s no way to stop that from happening, we may not have any. Once upon a time it was the done thing, but now I read about identities stolen and grieving relatives hassled by unscrupulous people who try to use the info in the obituaries to pretend to have known the deceased thereby leveraging money from the relatives.

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  2. I do not read obituaries – but then, I do not really have what I view as a hometown because as a child we never stayed in one place long enough to call it that. I probably would not read obits anyway, because they always make me feel more vulnerable, and that’s a feeling I do not like. As to WP, I haven’t tried the caption over the photo, just a caption underneath which didn’t darken the photo. I suspect the problem is that you’re putting a layer over the entire photo, and the blending system they use causes the darkening. No idea if there’s a workaround for that or not. It’s all part of the plot to make us more crazy.

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  3. Who ever thought about someone being an obituary writer?
    I’m glad I don’t have to write yours; it would be long, long, long, due to all your accomplishments and skills, and wonderfulness!

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  4. I always at least glance at the obituaries in our newspaper. Used to be, nearly every journalist on a daily paper started out by writing obits (I know I did). It’s great practice, and you get to learn a lot about your community. I’ll never forget some of the funeral homes I worked with proclaimed that so-and-so (the deceased) had been “promoted to glory.” I like that. It’s positive, assuming the person has gone to a better place. And way more picturesque than plain old “died.”

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  5. Everybody is a saint in obituaries. They show the love, but never the personality of the diseased. We should all write our own.

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  6. I always read obits. Living in the same town for 40+ years, I see way too many familiar names. Being in the South, I love how they include nicknames for the deceased: Boo Daddy had a funny obit that warmed my heart to read. The sad ones are those that parents write about their kids gone too young from addiction or suicide. I always wonder if their friends read it and decide to straighten up.

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  7. I usually don’t spare obits in the paper a glance. But sometimes I do, and I also look for the ages of people who have died to try to comfort myself that I’m not *that* old. With 2 friends my age dying last year, I fear that I *am* that old. I hope to live at least as long as my parents did, which is a lot more years from now. But with COVID, I’ve looked at the obits more often to look for the cause of death, particularly for someone my age or younger. Still–not every day by any means.

    I love reading entertaining obits. For someone who wasn’t morose and stodgy in real life, neither should their obit be. I’ve made a start several times on writing my own so my heirs can just plop that into the paper, or not, as they see fit.
    Also have thought a lot about creating a photo album (probably digital, with a paper copy) with photos of me that could be used. I haven’t really worked on that one, though.

    So many obits are a basic recitation of facts about the person (which is pretty much what we did for my parents, even though they weren’t morose or stodgy) without necessarily capturing what they were *like*. Maybe I should hire you to write mine.

    And SORRY to hear about your ongoing WordPress joys.

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  8. I read obits and love good ones. One of my favorites from years ago was in the DETROIT FREE PRESS, and the man who died had been known locally as “Cool Breeze.” I loved that name! My all-time favorite (so far) here in Cochise County was about a woman whose favorite activities were “quilting and working cows.” Isn’t that wonderful?

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  9. I do the same thing. Check and read the obituaries. Occasionally find someone I know. And give thanks that I am still here.

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  10. I read obits about every day. I signed up by email in a small town in Oklahoma where we have a dear friend who lives alone…I always sigh when I have to open that email…not him yet!
    I love the age old obits…have you worked on yours? I have mine all set to go. One of the local funeral home guys…always says she nurtured her garden to fruitful abundance for her familys needs and loved them with her whole heart…what exactly does that mean when he writes it in all the obits. I think that sometimes people become better after death than they were in life:(

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  11. Most obits seem not to show the personality or relate the important life experiences of the deceased. I’d never thought about how my obit might read … thanks Dawn … I’m going to write my own! Double bogey indeed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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