Okay, reading the obituaries might sound a bit depressing. I don’t make a habit of it, but I do find myself looking at them from time-to-time. Perhaps it’s because I’ve passed the Biblical “three score and ten” and I realize that one of these days, people will be reading mine and saying, “huh — really? I didn’t know that.”
Or perhaps it’s that I haven’t finished the second cup of coffee and there’s not much left to read.
I’m not exactly an expert obituaries, but I’ve read enough to know that it basically starts with the person’s age and sometimes cause of death, what they accomplished in their life, a list of family, and finally their religious affiliation, if any, and memorial service. Or as they call it now, “celebration of life.” So there is a sameness about them all starting with the name.
I’m amazed that people feel the need to write: “William (Bill) Stevens” or “Jeffrey (Jeff) Sanders.” If the name is Reginald Harcourt Framingham III, I can understand putting “Buddy” in parenthesis since probably the only people who ever new his real name were his parents. But Jeffrey? Yes, I think we would realize that is actually the same as Jeff.
We are often told that the deceased passed away surrounded by family, which is surely a good thing. There was one rather odd one, however that stated he passed away “surrounded by 800 thread count sheets.” Let’s just hope that his family was there, too, and someone had a sense of humor.
And usually they state the age. It’s amazing that so many of them are my age or younger. Hark — is that the grim reaper I hear shuffling up my driveway?
I still have not quite figured out the “preceded in death” part. Here’s Abner Perez who died at the age of 83 and was preceded in death by his parents … ya think? Now if they hadn’t preceded him in death, that would be newsworthy. This is then followed by a whole list of relatives including the living and the dead. Since newspapers charge by the word, I’m thinking either these people have lots of money or are really worried that they’ll leave out someone important like Aunt Tabitha who has made noises about leaving her rather considerable fortune to those stupid little chihuahuas she calls her “babies.” Better not take a chance; we better put her name in there. There’s no way Aunt Tabitha can live much longer, although the whole family has been saying that for years now, but if it’s us or those chihuahuas, I say we spend the extra money.
Okay, here’s the tribute to the deceased. If the best someone can say is “he loved to play practical jokes on his friends,” I have to wonder. I mean, not all of us are Nobel Prize winners, but surely he contributed something of note to humanity? Or not. I guess you can hardly write, “he squandered his pitiful life playing video games and never repaid any of the numerous loans from family and friends.” Usually, however, it starts with the kind of work followed by hobbies and his/her “love of sports” or “dedicated to animal rescue.” Some of these people must have been on the go all day long since they coached Little League, mentored through Big Brother Big Sisters, led a Scout troupe, participated at their church’s “helping hands,” volunteered at the library, and often baked brownies for the neighborhood children. No wonder she died — she was exhausted!
And then there is the notice of service. Being a Christian, I feel bad when I read that the services are held at a mortuary which sort of implies no church affiliation. Of course, that does not mean they had no faith, but it’s sort of indicative. I cringed at one which said the service would be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints. Doesn’t anyone proofread these things?
After reading all these, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t write my own: “She died following a valiant battle with a continuous string of ‘bad hair days,’ surrounded by her family of cats who were waiting with increasing agitation for her to get up and feed them …” Or maybe not. I’ll just leave that to someone who is clever and eloquent and has enough money to pay to list all the wonderful things I did with my life.
So I guess I’d better start working on all those wonderful things.